The 35U began with a vision to inspire the leaders of tomorrow by telling them about the leaders of today. With millions of people involved in government, education, business and community service across the country, it sometimes may be hard for the 35U to connect to leaders individually simply due to an age barrier. The 35U to us is any young adult from the ages of 18-35 in this country. These individuals have a voice – they can vote, serve, and most importantly, they can make a difference for future generations.

Today’s Q&A feature is Alexandria Ayala, Community Engagement Director with The Florida Democratic Party for Region 4 of the state, which includes Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast. Her primary goal is to energize and empower local communities, recruit and train candidates for office, and help to deliver Democratic victories up and down the ticket. Alexandria has worked as a political consultant for a few years now and has a background in government affairs as well as local, state, and national campaigns. Alexandria is extremely passionate about U.S./Puerto Rico relations, gender equity, and particularly youth political engagement. She currently serves as Statewide Political Director for the Florida Young Democrats and is on the board of the Palm Beach County Young Democrats as Vice President. Through those roles, she is able to engage with a variety people from diverse backgrounds who are all excited to be involved and impact change where they can. Alexandria is a lead strategist for the Stamp the Vote campaign which is a joint effort between the Palm Beach County Young Democrats & the Palm Beach County Democratic Party that seeks to register active Democratic voters for Vote By Mail in hopes of increasing turnout and engagement. She constantly aspires to inspire those around her into becoming the best versions of themselves and channeling their talents into positive, effective action. Alexandria holds a Political Science and Journalism Studies degree from the University of Central Florida. We caught up with Alexandria to find out what leadership means to her and what advice she would give to future leaders.

Why did you choose this career path?

I very happily ended up in politics and public service after I went to college thinking I’d become a nurse and quickly realized I didn’t quite have that skill set!. I was in my 2nd year at University of Central Florida during the 2012 presidential election when I was seeking a major change. That election particularly interested me because 2008 had already been such an important, pivotal moment in history and 2012 felt like a moment where we’d either continue progress or change course completely. At the time, the University of Central Florida’s  College Democrats were super active on campus by registering voters, hosting rallies with guests such as President Bill Clinton and Governor/Congressman Charlie Crist, bussing students to the polls. That service and activism spoke to me. I always wanted to help people and this way my way to do that. Best decision I made yet and I truly love what I do.

Who inspired you to get involved?

My biggest inspiration to get involved has definitely been my parents, my culture, really everything I’ve experienced to get me to where I am today. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, in a family environment where I was always positively encouraged to be an active participant in life by pursuing my dreams and passions and believe that nothing could stand in my way if I worked hard. Moving to Florida at age 7, my family made sure I held onto that ambition and never lost sight of my goals. All through life, I’ve been the one who is in multiple activities at once, always preferring to be super busy and working towards something, jumping at the opportunity to learn something new. I’m eternally grateful for that positive influence. Also, President Obama is a constant inspiration for me and the initial reason I got into this career.

How do you define a leader?

To me, the definition of a leader has always been someone who primarily leads through example with humility, someone who listens more than they speak, and someone who is inspired with a vision who works with others to realize that vision because they understand the power of collaboration. A leader also acknowledges that no work is beneath them. In order to be a good leader, you must first be a good follower.

What projects are you currently involved with in the community that engages the next generation of leaders?

One of my biggest passions is exploring how to better engage youth leaders. As Vice President of the Florida Young Democrats and also of my local Palm Beach Chapter, a big focus for me is encouraging youth voting participation. For the past year, the Palm Beach County Young Democrats have been executing a program called Stamp the Vote which aims to sign registered voters up for Vote By Mail which then increases their probability of turnout. Additionally, I am currently a fellow of New Leaders Council Palm Beach which is an organization that identifies and trains young progressive leaders of a community in hopes of creating a better progressive bench. When young people are presented with exciting opportunities, the sky is the limit.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders who want to get involved?

Find your passion, find your people and take the plunge! Seek out opportunities to be involved with what sets your soul on fire. Seek mentorship from those you admire. It excites me immensely to see the level of engagement from young people in these current times, just look at the social movements taking place because of our generation. It’s incredibly inspiring to those around us and we can and will be the change we wish to see in the world!.