While most students aren’t eligible to vote this election, the issues affecting them are important and here to stay. What is the first issue students want the next president to focus on? From LGBTQIA rights, fair wages and abolishing standardized testing to pleas for a path towards citizenship, students demand their voices be heard and their issues addressed.
Message to my next president is a living, breathing collection of snapshots into the hearts, minds and psyche of the next generation of voters, activists, scholars, businesspeople and leaders. See the full archive here, and post your message here.
Donald Trump has made immigration a widely discussed theme of this presidential election. But what often gets lost is the human implications of our current fractured immigration system and the impact of the decisions the next president will have on students. Immigration messages ranged from anger over the way Latino immigrants are portrayed in popular culture to fear about parental deportations.
Nayely DeLara | Daniel Pearl Magnet High School | North Hills, Calif.
“I realize it is a crime to be in this country illegally, but please help those people who want to get right with the law and come out of the shadows. Don’t forget about the children who are scared to come home one day, finding their parents are gone and have to face the loneliness deportation leaves behind, all by themselves.”
Luis Valente | South East High School | South Gate, Calif.
Christopher Rogel | Los Angeles River High School | Los Angeles, Calif.
“Yes, immigrants are taking jobs, but some jobs are jobs people don’t want to take, like a gardener. Have you ever seen a white guy driving a truck carrying a lawnmower, weed whacker and other gardening tools? So if you don’t want to see families be torn apart, then make getting a green card easier.”
XiaoRui(Jane) Jing | Sierra Canyon High School | Porter Ranch, CA
Emily Lopez | Los Angeles River High School | Los Angeles, Calif.
“Because of us―immigrants, people have what they have today. We build the buildings they work in, we serve and cut the food they eat. Do not speak less of immigrants because they’ve put in as much love to this country as you have.”
Juan Sandoval | Los Angeles River High School | Los Angeles, Calif.
“Even though they have their papers, they are treated as if they are nothing. I’m tired of witnessing immigrants being rejected a job because they’re undocumented.”
The most popular topic was access to higher education. Students across racial and class spectrums showed unease, nervousness and trepidation about a path towards and through college.
Kate Sequeira | San Dieguito Academy | Carlsbad, Calif.
“I don’t want my list of colleges to be limited by what my family can and cannot afford. I don’t want to get accepted to my dream college, only to be forced to turn it down. I don’t want to worry about whether I will be able to attend college outside of San Diego, simply because of the cost of room and board.”
Ariana Yarnell | Ontario High School | Ontario, Calif.
“It is such a scary thought, that as a junior in high school, I have not even begun to look at colleges, because I do not think that I can afford to attend.”
Xander Polny | Corona del Mar High School | Newport Beach, Calif.
“As a high school senior, the beginning of the school year has revolved around studying for standardized tests and applying for colleges, and that will continue to be the case for a while. Yes, it is frightening and stressful, but the crazy part is that I know this is not even the worst part. I know that I will eventually have to carry the burden of student debt during college and maybe beyond, all because college nowadays is too expensive for most middle and lower class families.”
Josie Winslow | Charter High School of the Arts | Van Nuys, Calif.
LGBTQIA & inclusivity
Marriage equality was guaranteed by the Supreme Court in 2015. But students are pushing for further inclusivity.
Kevin Cervantes | Libra Academy at Linda Esperanza Marquez High School | Huntington Park, Calif.
“No American citizen deserves — in the 21st century — to be treated like a second class citizen due to their sexual orientation! I want there to be a country where all American citizens are treated with the respect they deserve, a country where an LGBTQIA member won’t lose their job because of their sexual orientation, a country where all American citizens have the true right to pursue happiness.”
Taylor Cooper | Corona del Mar High School | Newport Beach, Calif.
“As a gender fluid individual, this is a daily struggle for me and many other people who identify outside of the gender binary. For everyone who’s biological gender does not align with their gender identity, it is terrifying.That is why I ask you, future president, to support my community by promoting gender-neutral bathrooms.”
Sarah Orgiyvsky | Charter High School of the Arts | Los Angeles, Calif.
“I want to live in a country where I don’t have to fight tooth and nail just so that people in my community can feel safe. I need it to weigh heavily on your mind that the largest-scale mass murder of LGBTQ+ people happened this year: not centuries ago, not decades ago, but this year, the year you are stepping in to take office.”
Nina Elkadi | Iowa City West High School | Iowa City, Iowa
“As a first-generation American with a European mother and an African father, it’s alarming to see xenophobia becoming a social norm. The leader of the United States should make it one of their goals to create a community that fosters the growth of this so called ‘melting pot.'”
Simone Chu | Arcadia High School | Arcadia, Calif.
“I’m a hyphenated American. I was born in this country, but my culture is forever a part of the way I identify myself…In times like these, it’s hard to be a hyphenated American. When differences seem to outweigh similarities, and differences are treated as things to be tolerated, but not necessarily understood. Our nation is polarized on so many issues of race, of ethnicity, of religion. I’m asking you to be a leader brave enough to bridge these differences before they become irreconcilable.”
Banning or reducing standardized testing often seems like childish griping. But students raised legitimate concerns about the perceived outsized role that tests play in their future.
Caleb Ragan | John W North High School | Riverside, Calif.
“Our country is moving in the right direction on standardized testing, especially with the repeal of the No Child Left Behind Act, but I don’t think that is enough. It is your job to keep that momentum moving when you take office. I refuse to be defined by a number. Please ensure that my talent, that my veracity, that my passion does not become overshadowed by a test score.”
Audrey Tumbarello | Corona del Mar High School | Newport Beach, Calif.
“I ask that you please work to minimize the impact of testing on students’ futures, or better yet, get rid of the testing system entirely.”
Sexual assault has increasingly become a national issue, and students expect the next president to play a leading role.
Becca Castillo | Swarthmore College | Swarthmore, Pa.
“Please don’t let me continue to live in a world where rapists walk free and victims are silenced. Please don’t perpetuate rape culture or tell me that a man’s future shouldn’t be destroyed over “20 minutes of action.” Be a voice for the countless women who are too afraid to stand up. Show them that there’s someone fighting for them, no matter how hard the battle is. Be the president you would want for your daughter and your granddaughter—for every little girl out there who shouldn’t have to grow up in a world that tells them to sit down and shut up.”
Hillary Clinton has repeatedly raised the issue of unequal pay for women in the workplace—in 2015, female full-time workers made 80 cents for every dollar earned by men.
Joey Maya Safchik | Charter High School of the Arts | Los Angeles, Calif.
Thuy Pham | Corona del Mar High School | Newport Beach, Calif.
“As a young woman aspiring to become a doctor, I often find myself thinking about the position that society will take on the role of women in certain workplaces. I am conscious of how women are treated as inferior to men in working environments, such as hospitals.”
Politics as usual
Young people raised a palpable frustration over the state of politics right now. While most can’t even vote, students expressed the fatigue you could have expected in a beltway veteran.
Charlotte Weinman | Harvard-Westlake High School | Studio City, Calif.
“I’m tired of American exceptionalism– of glorifying our leaders as something more than human. I want a president who is honest– simple as that. I want a president who doesn’t present themselves as super-human, but manages to embody the qualities a leader (or any person) should: empathy, candor, justice, compassion.”
Cece Jane Stewart | El Segundo High School | El Segundo, Calif.
“Instead of learning the candidates’ positions on the issues that night, I learned that if I wanted to be a politician I have to answer questions with nothing that has to do with the importance issues that affect America, but instead with insults.”