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Voices Behind The Vote: Flipping The Script

Hannah Colton / KUNM
D'Andre Ravenel (right) and classmates hang out on a break from Gordon Bernell Charter School in downtown Albuquerque.

Lots of people don’t vote because they don’t see candidates they identify with or they don’t think their vote counts for much. KUNM spoke with a student who's got a lot on his mind, including felony charges and an upcoming trial date. Even so, he says he’s getting informed and getting to the polls for the first time this election.

On a sunny October day, D’Andre Ravenel sits next to the Regional Correction Center in downtown Albuquerque. He and several of his peers are on their lunch break from Gordon Bernell Charter School, a high school for people who are on probation or incarcerated. 

“This school is for people who haven’t had the easiest life, who are going through some stuff,” Ravenel explains. “I’ve struggled my entire life with clinical depression, suicidal tendencies. I’ve tried eight times to kill myself. I’ve been shot. I haven’t lived a very easy life, but I’m just trying to make the most of a bad situation.”

Ravenel is fighting charges of second-degree murder and extortion. Since he spent a little over a month in jail last year, he says, he’s been doing a lot of painting, photography, and exploring the city on his longboard. “I’m just really trying to occupy himself with productive things, things that aren’t going to get me in trouble, things that I enjoy doing.”  

At 21, Ravenel recently registered to vote for the first time. “I always assumed that my vote, my opinion, didn’t really make a difference,” he said. “But my teacher up there, Miss Jessie, kind of flipped the script on me and said ‘if everyone has that mentality, then of course nothing’s going to change.’”

With supportive staff and a flexible pace, he says Gordon Bernell offers a much better environment than his previous, "terrible" high school experience.

"I was expelled both my years. I was going through a lot of depression, and you know, public schools are not going to go out of their way to help one individual," he said. "But here, if I really need help with one specific thing, the teacher will sit down and work with me for however long it takes until I get it.”

Several classmates sit with Ravenel on a ledge outside the building, cracking jokes and offering words of support. He says they're like family. "They accept me for who I am. They’re not going to judge me based on my appearance. Because, I mean, if you were to look at me: African American, scarred-up right arm... I look like a degenerate, like I should be out causing problems. But they don’t see me like that. They actually see the real me, the genuine person, not just the stereotype that society has labelled me as.”

Ravenel registered as a Libertarian, he says, because it “seemed the most neutral.” He says he'd like to vote for a candidate who is transparent, honest, and trustworthy. "Someone who can understand and relate to people who live the day-to-day," he said. "Genuine, real working people. People who make the world run, not just the people on top."

"We’re the gears, you know. We’re the cogs in the machine."


Support for KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, the Con Alma Health Foundation, and from KUNM listeners like you.

Hannah served as news director at KUNM and reported on education, Albuquerque politics, and anything public health-related. She died in November 2020.
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