Latino Youth Advocating for Social Change on the Steps of Capitol Hill

By NCLR’s Líderes Youth Advisory Committee

(The following blog is a collective experience from the NCLR Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) at Líderes Congreso in Washington, DC, in early March. It was first posted to the Lideres Youth Advisory Committee blog.)

Lideres Youth

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As we reflect on Líderes Congreso, we marvel at the fact that we were able to share this experience with other young leaders who are passionate about making a difference in their communities. We are filled with hope, pride, and a deep commitment to the cause when we see self-appointed youth representatives from various communities empowered to travel to Washington, learn about the issues important to our community, advocate for change, and voice their valid opinions to elected officials and key stakeholders.

“As children, we are taught that Washington, DC, is where some of our nation’s most important events took place and where some of our nation’s greatest leaders lived and fought for what they believed in—justice and equality for all people. Now, many years later, there are new leaders, and yet it remains a place of great importance for achieving the same dreams of before.” —John Paul Ramirez, YAC California Region Representative

In a way, we see the youth who attended Congreso as young “heroes” who travel great distances, leaving the comfort and security of their homes, unaware of what they would encounter upon arriving to their destination, all in the hopes of making an impact when arriving and returning to the battles for comprehensive immigration reform, equitable educational systems, and laws that protect laborers that we fight on a daily basis. Keeping with this image, we believe that we are all impacted by the personal stories shared and the Capitol visits made—these are our tools to create change, not only at the local level, but also at the state and national levels.

“I felt hope for a better, more equitable world for my mother, my uncles, my students, and my extended family, which, regardless of whether I will meet them in this lifetime, I am fighting for. Being a part of the NCLR Líderes Initiative pushes me to the next level as a Latina activist and exposes me to the challenges and everyday accomplishments of the people in the front lines—our youth. What had once seemed impossible became possible. How would my mother have known that her daughter would one day be in the office of her state officials telling her story of immigration, struggle, success, and contribution to this country? None of this experience could ever have been possible without acceptance into the Líderes Youth Advisory Committee.” —Angela Vivar, YAC Midwest Region Representative

Although we realize that the work is not done yet, we are optimistic for the future. As we proceed being a part of this year’s YAC we have a lot to learn and even more ideas to develop in order to expand the Líderes Network to its highest potential. We are looking forward to our next event in New Orleans, Louisiana, this summer and invite everyone who is passionate about change to join the network.

“It is a privilege to have been selected to represent our respective regions, and it is an amazing opportunity to make a lasting impact for future YAC members and Líderes throughout the country. We are all looking forward to growing from the experience and contributing to NCLR’s mission and the Líderes Network.” —Krista Aida Bustamante, YAC Far West Region Representative

Thank you, Líderes, for the leadership training, mentorship, and empowerment to make real change!