Photo courtesy of Kristy Plaza
Gabrielino High School

Action Civics LA empowers young generation to participate in local communities

“Democracy is a verb!” This is the motto that Action Civics Los Angeles lives by. 

On April 24, Action Civics LA hosted their 3rd annual Action Civics Showcase, an event in which students displayed projects they had created that provided their own take on solutions regarding communal and national concerns. Taking place in the Bradley Tower Room at Los Angeles City Hall, this showcase featured students from multiple high schools including Responsible Indigenous Social Entrepreneurship (RISE) School, Community Health Advocates School (CHAS), Social Justice Humanitas Academy, Mendez High School, and Alliance Patti and Peter Neuwirth Leadership Academy.

“Young people are our future, and they offer a fresh perspective that can lead to many benefits,” Sheila McMullin, Action Civics LA Director, stated. “They are creating our communities now, and they have a lot of expertise that doesn’t get tapped, which can often be a disadvantage for us.”

Action Civics LA is a non-profit, non-partisan youth leadership organization that partners with schools and educators to create pathways for students to get involved with their communities and participate in the democratic process.  A few months before the showcase, Action Civics LA community partners entered the classrooms of the selected schools that they were partnered with in order to present students with the challenge of creating a plan to better their community.

During their fall semester, students grouped with one another to find and focus on issues that they were passionate about as well as create a call to action speech. From there, they worked on action projects geared around said issues with the intent of presenting at the Action Civics Showcase.

The work presented by these students emulated a passion and drive for making a difference in our society. Projects ranged from that of social justice — gun reform, helping the homeless, and immigration — to general advocacy for a multitude of other issues — obesity, mental health, the environment.

“It was hard at first creating momentum for our project because not many people wanted to speak up or saw the importance of it,” Social Justice Humanitas Academy senior Samantha Gonzalez said, “but to be able to make it to this showcase and see our project come to life has made the struggle worth it.”

Gonzalez and her group created a project revolving around undocumented immigrants and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. Personally impacted by President Donald Trump’s decision to phase out DACA, this group decided to create awareness for the problem by sharing stories of undocumented teenagers.

During the judging portion, students presented their projects to community guests and received feedback on how to improve upon them. Through this, students learned not only how to educate onlookers about their subject matters, but also how to more adequately advocate for a change in their status quo.

After a short speech by LA City Councilman David Ryu, groups were awarded civic expert badges relating to community, research, and action. McMullin and her other organization leaders concluded the event with encouragements for students to continue furthering their proposals for the community.

In the future, Action Civics LA hopes to expand the showcase to a bigger location in order to include more students from different schools. Their goal is to reform the current civics education curriculum taught in schools to include active participation in the democratic process.

“We want to empower and develop the skills of this young generation to become our future leaders,” McMullin stated. “We want them to feel confident in their professions… whether its being a government official or a lawyer.”

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Photos courtesy of Sheila McMullin, Kristy Plaza, and Noor Aldayeh