Students from many different schools within Los Angeles County gathered at City Hall to discuss problems in their communities and how to improve these problems on April 11. Students informed their audience about topics such as Reckless Driving, Social Media Addiction, Immigration Enforcement, Mental Illness, Self-Care, PTSD Drug Abuse, and Gang Violence.
Students presented their posters which showed their extensive research and what they are doing or plan to enact into their communities to help address the issues they have chosen. Students also prepared to engage in conversation with community members and how they could get involved.
The event left many students empowered and inspired knowing that they have the power to make change on these issues.
The event was organized by Action Civics CA, the west coast chapter of Mikva Challenge, a national non-profit based in Chicago. The purpose of Action Civics is for youth to find their voice and to invite youth into the political process. The program goes as far as Chicago to New York to here in Los Angeles, California.
“This year, middle schoolers participated for the first time in the Showcase, representing that it doesn’t matter the age of the person, it matters the commitment. This made me proud and have continued faith in the future that lies in their hands,” said Director of Action Civics CA Sheila McMullin.
This new generation of students exhibited the reality of the adultist misconception of students’ ethics by taking action at school and out of campus. An example includes Karime and Christopher from the Neurith Leadership Academy, who presented on a Self Care Drive.
According to their research, there are approximately 60 thousand homeless people in the City of Los Angeles. They explained that while conducting their project, they became conscious of the sadness involving homelessness, which prompted them to make a drive at their school to collect socks and hygienic products.
Green Dot Schools Curriculum Specialist Benjamin Wong said, “Student’s get excited. It’s awesome to see young people excited and caring about current situations.” Orellana and Escudero plan to persuade their principle to allow a car crash simulation to take place on the school’s campus for high school students, so that they may be made aware of the dangers of reckless driving.
An “I Learn American” poster on immigration from Social Justice and Humanities in the San Fernando Valley discussed the personal narratives that define the students.
In the presentation, three students shared their personal narratives. One discussed how she came out to her parents and how her mom did not accept her. At the time this student felt alone and that she had no support from her family. They had rejected her but she learned that she does not need anyone’s approval to remain strong.
Semee Park of EmpowerLA, Natalie, one of the youngest elected Neighborhood Council Representatives, and Alejandra Ramírez-Zárate of the Advancement Project, gave speeches about the importance of activism beginning in early ages. In order to persuade students to vote, Alejandra pushed the idea that “there is power in numbers.”
After discussing these topics with many of the students there I talked to representatives from EmpowerLA which houses the network of Neighborhood Councils, which are city government-certified groups throughout LA, on what steps communities can take to change these issues.
Semee Park Director of Neighborhood Council Operations said, “there are 99 elections all throughout LA, the city clerk runs elections outreach, anyone in the city who claims they have stake can run for Council.” This opens up various opportunities for undocumented and homeless individuals and people with a criminal record to run and vote and have their voices represented in city government.”
Neighborhood Council Member, Mateo Jil who works for the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment said, “Something that isn’t being addressed has to have a counter-movement.” He believes that the youth is the counter movement to many of these issues because we are the next generation of members that can change how the state, cities, and government is run.
Natalie, the youngest Neighborhood Council members as she said, “We deserve to be counted, and we have the opportunity to say we will be counted and to be sure that our families will be counted!”
Other individuals that attended the event included Marilú Guevara, executive director of League of Women Voters of Los Angeles, and Candice Mack, senior librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library. Guevara reached out to students telling them to come out and vote. As part of the League’s work, they travel to different schools and encourage teens to register as well as train other youth to register to vote.
The group has helped many young adults get their voices heard. Mack works with young adults and spreads LA Public Library opportunities including summer programs both paid and unpaid are offered to students. This is an extraordinary opportunity not just for me but many other students because it allows them to earn money to pay for college or school supplies needed.
Student activists were rewarded with research, community and action badges for their work and dedication. Every school was called up to the podium to give a short speech about the event and express gratitude toward the tremendous opportunities awarded to them.