Does civic engagement mean showing up for community service events? For school activities? Are civically engaged youth the same ones who are constantly on Facebook and Instagram?
Editor’s note: this post is the first in a 3-part series sponsored by OneAmerica, exploring youth civic engagement around immigration. OneAmerica’s youth group was recognized with a 2013 Colleen Willoughby Youth Civic Education award.
I ask myself this question all the time.
Does it mean showing up for community service events? For school activities? Are civically engaged youth the same ones who are constantly on Facebook and Instagram?
The answer is a rousing YES to all of the above!
Take Yadira Lopez. Yadira is like any other teen. She checks Facebook on her phone. She knows the lyrics of the latest Beyoncé song and has a strong opinion about Miley Cyrus’s twerking video. She also is a hard worker with an impressive GPA and part of the ROTC at her school. She also has to work twice as hard as her classmates to get scholarships: as an immigrant, she is ineligible for state and federal financial aid.
She never thought that one day she would meet with Representative Adam Smith to share how immigration issues impact her life. She never thought that she would challenge him to vote yes on the Dream Act and support Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
She didn’t think she would walk door to door and register people to vote. She didn’t think she would testify in Olympia at a hearing for a law that – if passed- would change her life. But all of those things happened because she decided to become active in her community.
In my book, civically engaged youth are people who love the country they live in. They are aware of the needs and rights of the community they are from. They are people who are not afraid to push themselves out of their comfort zones and stand up for others and doing what is right no matter the consequence.
I am blessed to be able to see amazing youth do this day in and day out. They have the thirst and passion to want justice for all and want to work together as a community to embrace one another and build bridges.
Yadira told me once: “Dreams don’t come true without actions. We must put our most sincere efforts for them to become realities.”
This reality that Yadira talks about is one we all want to aspire to live in.