07/23/2008 AT 12:35 PM EDT
may have two new movies set for release this fall, but for now she's taking a break from acting to focus on politics.
The New York native, accompanied by boyfriend Mathieu Schreyer, went to Washington, D.C.'s Capitol Hill Tuesday to help promote voter participation.
"I decided I'm not going to be working at all through the fall," the actress – who'll be seen in Eagle Eye
with Shia LaBoeuf
and Seven Pounds
with Will Smith
– told PEOPLE.
Instead, she plans to work at voter drives across the country sponsored by her non-profit Voto Latino.
"We're targeting the Latin youth vote," said Dawson, 28. "There's 18 million [people who] are eligible. But we are not showing that up in votes. So our numbers aren't counting. When you actually ... work with local organizations – that makes the biggest impact, and that's what I want to be a part of."
Dawson (who admits she didn’t vote for president until 2004, the same year she started Voto Latino) will be at both Democratic and Republican conventions as part of her efforts to reach young Latinos.
"The reason why I co-founded Voto Latino is because of my mom," she told the crowd in D.C. "It's because of my grandmother. It's because I was raised to do it yourself. You want that to be better? You do it yourself."