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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Story and photos by Melina Cervantes

While hundreds of thousands of youth across the globe were marching in unison to be heard, in this case decrying the gun violence that has impacted so many of their lives, Compton’s Emily Sanchez was putting her burgeoning civic engagement into practice.

“We are trying to get our student body to get more involved because it’s important. Right now there’s a lot going on in terms of politics and decision making.”

The sophomore at Compton Early College High School (CECHS) is a “Change Agent,” an active member of Girls Build LA (GBLA). In its third year, the program for young women in Los Angeles County public middle and high school’s, employs STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) techniques, challenging students to learn about and effect social change.

“We wanted to host something for the youth of Compton,” Miss Sanchez explains. “We hope to get them excited about being civically engaged and helping out in the community.”

Last Saturday, as scores marched, CECHS hosted the Compton Youth Leadership Summit, organized by its own GBLA program.

There were numerous workshops from CSU Dominguez Hills’ “How to Get to College,” discussing steps and offering tips for college entrance, to “Organizacion Latina Estudiantil (O.L.E) and Camp Ubuntu, informing students of their programs at various colleges.

“I came out here to show a message of empowerment, letting the kids know that they can be anything that they want when they grow up.”

Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán  (D-CA), the youngest of eleven children of Mexican immigrants was born in Harbor City and grew up in surrounding communities, and was the keynote speaker at the summit. “I grew up here in the district and we’re in very similar situations.”

“The kids here are communities of color, they understand the struggle, they understand what it’s like to come from low income communities as did I. (I want) to share my story with them on how I did make it, (and) to inspire a little bit, and make sure that they’re aiming high. That’s what we need right now.”

“To meet someone with such confidence, passion, inspired me to keep going,” confides CECHS junior Nelly Carillo.  Miss Carillo had met the Congresswoman once prior in Washington, D.C. along with other students who had won a competition.

“Not every day do you meet someone of that importance. I feel, the fact that students are going to be exposed to someone like this, it’s something that will inspire them.”

Classmate Shayna Sanders echoed her thoughts. “A person of that importance to come out to speak to the youth, I feel like that will encourage the youth to feel like they have a voice because even civically engaged people come and talk to you”

The summit attracted approximately 60 students early on a Saturday morning.

In grooming future “Change Agents,” the GBLA program is funded by the LA Promise Fund. “It’s a program that challenges girls, young girls, to become leaders in their communities,” relates CECHS social studies teacher and GBLA advisor, Kimberly Ponce.

While the younger Emily Sanchez continues to formulate her life plans, Nelly Carillo has her sights set on USC and Columbia Law School, while Shayna Sanders is looking  crosstown to UCLA.

What is clear, while hundreds of thousands may have been exercising their voices for the first time, Emily Sanchez, Nelly Carillo and Shayna Sanders have already been employing their voices into action.