Developing the leaders of the 21st century: King-Chavez Neighborhood of Schools’ students become Latinx leaders

Road to San Diego | 2019 UnidosUS Annual Conference
Students from UnidosUS Affiliate King-Chavez Neighborhood of Schools visited the U.S. Capitol in March during the UnidosUS Changemakers Summit.

This year’s UnidosUS Annual Conference will be hosted in San Diego, a community that celebrates Hispanic heritage and shows its contributions to American society through the exchange of cultures and commerce. California is our largest Affiliate region, and San Diego is home to eight Affiliates supporting the Latino community. These Affiliates serve more than 150,000 clients in San Diego alone, in the areas of civic engagement, education, health, and housing. In our “Road to San Diego” series we highlight the inspiring work they are doing in their community and the power of collaboration and leadership that is a vital part of the UnidosUS Affiliate Network.

King-Chavez Neighborhood of Schools (KCNS), one of our San Diego Affiliates, works to close the achievement gap between Latinos and White students with a preschool and six public charter schools. KCNS serves over 2,000 students in the Historic Barrio District and Downtown San Diego, and some of them attended UnidosUS’s Changemakers Summit last March in Washington, DC. These high school students have now taken what they learned back to their school to start a club and form future leaders.

By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

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Every year, the UnidosUS Changemakers Summit brings together aspiring activists and community leaders committed to advocating for Latinos. After learning and practicing advocacy skills in Washington, DC, finishing the Summit with a visit to meet with members of Congress, the KCNS students created a club to make a difference in their city. Meet María Mendez Arroyo, Marissa Cantero, Angel Moreno, Ashley Mendiola, Aricel Cruz and Alondra Mojica Alvarado, founders of “El Rancho.”


During the Summit, these young advocates learned how their personal stories are a powerful tool for policy change, something we distinctly learned as well in our previous “Road to San Diego” article and how our Affiliates are using it to create change. But it was the policy sessions that had the greatest impact on them: “They were informed about the health concerns in their communities, and they talked about the things that weren’t working in their city,” explains Daniela Montes, a college student at the University of California San Diego working with the club this summer.

Road to San Diego | 2019 UnidosUS Annual Conference
KCNS students and youth from other UnidosUS Affiliates at a March meeting in the office of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris.

At the policy sessions and briefings, they heard from UnidosUS policy experts about the latest issues affecting Latinos on education, economic equity, and health policies, and they took what they learned to the Capitol. On the last day of the Summit, the KCNS students experienced advocacy firsthand when they visited the office of Senator Kamala Harris with six other UnidosUS Affiliates from California (Casa Familiar, MAAC, Altamed, El Concilio, Montebello Housing and Development Corporation, and San Ysidro Health) to discuss health care, education, immigration, and housing policies impacting the thousands of families in their community.

The students went back to San Diego ready to stand up for what’s right, ready to do something to improve the lives of their comunidad. “One of the students lives in Barrio Logan, and she is talking about the pollution in her neighborhood, and when we were talking about what could be some solutions that are reasonable to do as high school students, they realized it’d be difficult for them to create some sort of reform and that the only way for them to really make a difference is to vote, and to inform others how to vote,” Montes said.

Reaching this realization, they created “El Rancho” to empower KCNS’s students and the communities they live in to get involved. This summer, they are gathering information about registering to vote, and they are preparing themselves to hold info sessions during the school year, both on campus as well as out in the community.

Road to San Diego | 2019 UnidosUS Annual Conference

“Their goal is to become Latinx leaders,” Montes explains. “They are passionate about empowering our community to accept themselves and have pride in who they are.” The club is a team of six right now, but they are planning on growing “El Rancho” and making it a year-round club of civically engaged students.


UnidosUS Annual Conference has a full workshop series dedicated to Future Changemakers, bringing together future leaders and aspiring advocates with the desire to learn about the latest issues affecting Latinos and how they can create change.

What will you gain?

A stronger sense of how your voice and actions can lead to a great future.

What will you learn?

  • About your unique advantage with Pedro David Espinoza, an Internet entrepreneur who’ll share the story of his life and how he used his talents to make a social impact. He will push yourself to go beyond your comfort zone and to ask yourself “what bridges am I building today?”
  • About Afro-Latinx identities in an honest session where three young professionals will share their experiences, and our Affiliate leaders will talk about the development of a framework to continue striving to support all Latinxs.
  • About the real value of an internship, to take the chance to try out work in a specific field, and to work alongside experts that can give you a real taste of the work for a particular career and help you decide if it’s the right one for you.
  • About leadership in our community and how the next wave of LGBTQ Latinx youth is emerging as resilient leaders ready to fight for equality in an environment full of challenges.

In the morning, join the Coffee Networking hours to meet fellow Conference-goers, and the themed Networking Receptions will connect you with people who share your interests. Plus, the general sessions will touch upon very interesting topics: Transforming Communities, Power and Influence, Leading into the Future, and Vision 2020: A Conversation with Candidates.

To learn more about King-Chavez Neighborhood of Schools, join us at the 2019 UnidosUS Annual Conference and the Future Changemakers workshops series. Registrations are now open, and you can check the full schedule of workshops and activities here.

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