Our nation’s youth are passionate about change and are taking charge

UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía met with students in Arizona.
UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía met with students in Arizona.

By Janet Murguía, UnidosUS President and CEO

The Latino community is one of the youngest and fastest-growing in the nation. With all the challenges young people face, I wanted to hear directly from our future leaders about what life is like for them in these turbulent times.

Last week, I spoke with 16 high schoolers from the Arizona State University Prep Academy, along with Phoenix-based UnidosUS Affiliates at a roundtable that gave young students a space to talk about the challenges and struggles they face every day.

This small group shared their stories and spoke passionately about the challenges they face in their daily lives.

It was clear that current events are very much on their minds. A student named Liliana said “The biggest threat to our generation is guns. We aren’t allowed to be teenagers.”

Liliana worries about her sense of safety often, and about where to hide if a shooter comes into her school. She was very well informed on the topic, listing recommendations to push back against gun violence, such as raising age restrictions on guns and banning assault weapons.

Liliana also mentioned the students of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and how the “live footage in Parkland created a very real picture for us” of the damage weapons of war could cause when they are readily available to potentially dangerous people.

Every student in the room was adamantly against arming teachers, which the Trump administration has floated as a potential policy proposal in response to the Parkland tragedy.

YOUNG PEOPLE SEE THE NEED FOR CHANGE

On health care, two students commented on how difficult it is for families who work to have access to quality health care. One student was in tears as she told us about her mother, whoJanet Murguía meets with students in Arizona. | Latino youth | Arizona works in health care at the Maricopa County Hospital assisting families who need to enroll in Arizona’s Medicaid system. In particular, her mother has shared with her the pain of seeing people who aren’t approved for coverage and can’t afford care on their own.

The young people I spoke with also stressed the uncertainty they feel due to the Trump administration’s virulently anti-immigrant policies. A student named Luis shared that he feels that there is uncertainty in all areas of his life because his parents are undocumented. His family lives in fear of deportation. While he is a citizen, he has an older brother who has DACA—being part of a mixed-status family gives him an intense anxiety he shouldn’t have to suffer.

STUDENTS RECOGNIZE THE POWER OF VOTING

But Luis is taking action. He’s registered to vote and plans to turn out this November. He also expressed his knowledge of the power of voting.

Another student is involved with Aliento, a community organization led by undocumented youth, which works with high school seniors to get eligible students and their families to register and vote.

Luis wants to help students start their own voter registration table at ASU Prep. Additionally, a young woman named Mirabel is involved with Mi Familia Vota, and is working to get more senior students involved at ASU Prep.

Our country—indeed our world—is going through a difficult time. But I remain hopeful.

I want to thank ASU Prep Academy students for sharing their fears, hopes, and perspectives on what we can do to create change. Things are not easy—especially now—but our future is bright because of young people like them.

HEAR MORE FROM YOUNG LATINO LEADERS

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