Nikita Leus-Oliva spent her four years at Coral Gables Senior High with a drive to help others, like herself, through activism and civic engagement. Channeling her passion for politics, Leus-Oliva now attends Columbia University in New York City and used her sophomore year of college to continue political campaign work by dedicating time and energy to the Biden Campaign in the swing state of Nevada for several months.
Her freshman year at Columbia University was a notable experience as not only was she exposed to the immense amount of cultures found in the concrete jungle compared to Miami, but the college itself had such specific clubs and activities to take part in that she immediately found her niche with students like herself: intelligent, driven and independent. The “city that never sleeps” immersed her into different circumstances that taught her how to effectively present information on campaigns, candidates and bills residents vote for. The vast difference between Miami and New York politics was evident as “…here in Miami it is very dynasty style with sons or daughters replacing their father or mother in office.” At Columbia, she is now a part of the Questbridge chapter that helps high school students, SOOL, which is also known as the Latinx club, and a board member of the CU Democrats club.
After COVID-19 unexpectedly halted all in-person classes in March, Nikita had a lot more time on her hands that gave her the possibility of continuing her work in swing states during the 2020 election. From late April to the end of May, “I started organizing for a senate primary in Iowa and a couple of days before the Iowa election, I interviewed with the Nevada Democrats,” Leus-Oliva recalled. She officially received the job for the summer cycle alongside college students in her cohort on June 3. Her assignment consisted of getting relocated to a small town in Northern Nevada right outside of Reno, called Sparks. She organized South Sparks, with her friend from Columbia University overlooking North Sparks. The divisions were called “turfs” in order to maximize one-on-one help within the community, however, they worked together in many instances. Unlike many towns in that region, this one had a high population of BIPOC people who tend to get overlooked by the Democratic Party when it comes to funding and resources.
Exposed to living in such a small town, she felt compelled to ensure all those who volunteered alongside her would retain valuable information come the next election cycle whether it be local, state, or national. Her belief is to always “leave the town you’re working in better than when you got there.” The work entailed long hours of training first time volunteers “via Zoom and socially distanced workshops” into becoming future leaders and organizing events like phone banking and text banking.
At the end of the few months spent working towards her goals, Leus-Oliva’s region, consisting of a team of eight people, not only increased voter turnout by unprecedented margins but “come 2022 or 2024…the organizer that [coordinates] Sparks will have the network I created from all the notes inputted through the database… and continue giving residents the voice they deserve.”
Noting the immense amount of work that still needs to be done now that Joe Biden is the president-elect, Leus-Oliva mentioned the difficulties of working in a divided Democratic Party. She feels as though the current system is still somewhat flawed especially for minority groups.
“Biden did as good of a job as he could to try to unite the country because it’s not just the Democratic Party that is divided, the whole country is,” alumna Nikita Leus-Oliva said.
For as long as she could remember, the message promoted was how one can only get involved in politics once they reach 18 years old. Although Nikita Leus-Olivia still has her whole life ahead of her; her determination caused her to fight for a seat at the table where she and the new generation of future leaders would never be silenced again.