As the general election (Nov. 8) approaches, Sonia Savoulian (below), Associate Director for Programs in Real Estate Development at the Price School of Public Policy, explains – for them – the importance of voting.
Sonia Savoulian (she/her) is the granddaughter of refugees. Her grandparents fled the Armenian genocide of the early 1900’s and resettled in Athens, Greece where they raised their families and where Sonia’s parents met and married. After enduring the tragedies of World War II and with a commitment to create more opportunities for their children, her parents immigrated to Montreal, Canada. Following one too many cold winters, and when Sonia was nine years old, they made the move to Glendale, California where there was a small but growing Armenian community.
Sonia’s parents placed great emphasis on education. They knew this would be essential for their children’s success. So, Sonia enrolled at USC as a freshman in 1978. After a bit of searching, Sonia majored in political science, which came as no surprise given that her favorite subject in high school was government. In the fall of her sophomore year, Sonia became a U.S. citizen. “This was an emotional decision, giving up my native country, but I wanted to participate in the electoral process,” Sonia said. She got involved in politics, becoming a leader of the USC Democrats student club and later gaining her first internship with Jerry Brown’s presidential campaign.
Encouraging others to vote
“I vote in nearly every election. I encourage everyone to vote.” Sonia is so passionate about voting that she’s used her skills as a knitter and crocheter to make VOTE pillows which sit on her front porch each election season. After seeing these pillows, Sonia’s neighbor liked them so much that Sonia made her a set. Sonia also keeps a set as part of her Zoom background as a “not-so-subtle” reminder to her students to participate in election season.
Currently, Sonia is involved in her local government, serving as a planning commissioner in the city where she lives—Signal Hill, California. Sonia also serves on the Sustainable Cities Committee. “I regularly attend community meetings and add my voice to decisions impacting our city.”
Sonia’s knitting and crochet talents are used to create blankets for new refugees to the United States (right). The note she includes with each blanket tells her family’s story, the value of education, and the importance of voting.
A legacy fulfilled
“My grandparents and parents had great courage and resilience. I am grateful for all their efforts which has allowed me to have a fulfilling life. Voting is my civic duty. Voting is also how I can ensure their aspirations are sustained.”
Sonia Savoulian has been at USC for nearly 40 years, currently working as the Associate Director for Programs in Real Estate Development at the Price School of Public Policy. Her commitment to civic engagement remains strong.
Do you have a voter story to share? Perhaps about when you first came of voting age? Or when you first became a U.S. citizen? Please send your inspirational voting stories to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share some of them with the USC community.