America Ferrera, the actress best known for her role on Ugly Betty, encouraged students to engage in the political process, when speaking in the Pegasus Ballroom on Tuesday.

“The most important lessons I learned about myself came from participating,” Ferrera said.

Ferrera promoted her America 4 America campaign, affiliated with the non-partisan Voto Latino organization, which registers and educates youth minority voters. The actress also discussed her humanitarian efforts. She works with advocacy groups like the ONE campaign and Save the Children, and is featured in the documentary Half The Sky, based on the book by Pulitzer Prize winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

The event was part of the Multicultural Academic and Support Services’ First Generation Speaker Series, and the Multicultural Student Center’s Hispanic Heritage Month program. The event was free to UCF students, faulty and staff.

Cynthia Florentino, the MSC Leadership Committee Coordinator, was excited to have Ferrera speak at the event. “We started [planning] over the summer because we really wanted to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month,” Florentino said. “It hasn’t been celebrated in a grand manner.”

Students were interested in hearing the actress speak about political engagement. “I thought it was very encouraging,” senior Vanessa Garcia said. “[I] Picked up a better perspective to use my voice and let it be heard.” As a political science and Spanish literature double major, Alan Zegarra was motivated to attend Ferrera’s speech. “[The event] seemed really interesting because it has to do with voting,” Zegarra said. As a first generation American whose parents are from Peru, Zegarra commented on Ferrera’s message about the potential of the Latino and youth community. “My parents always told me how lucky we are to be here,” Zegarra said. “For us to be represented.”

Ferrera noted that for her, the worst headlines after the election would report, “young people didn’t show up, again.” The actress reminded the audience that the election decides matters that directly affect students, and that their vote counts.

“The best way to fight back is with your voice,” Ferrera said. “You can’t just get mad. Get registered.”

Nicole Bleier