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“If, in contrast, tomorrow’s potential activists can feel that their demonstrations and actions are effective in molding public opinion and more important, in effecting needed social change, then the possibilities for constructive change in post-industrial American society are virtually without limit” 

-Kenneth  Keniston 

When I was about sixteen, I participated and led a youth organization called the Youth Advisory Committee. The YAC was a state-funded program under the direction of AVANCE, a nonprofit organization. The YAC aimed to address youth at-risk from dropping out of school from the 78520 zip code in Brownsville. In one major project, we had to create a poll that targeted adolescents in our area.  This poll contained issues that youth face often; including gang involvement, drug use, and teenage pregnancy [I cannot remember the other issues…]. We handed this poll to our classmates and they had to rate the issues they felt affected them the most. Consequently, the top three issues would then be utilized to create programs that addressed those issues. So, we sat in a room with my organization, our coordinator, and representatives of other organizations. We were going to openly discuss what was to be done. I cannot remember what the top three issues were but I know that teenage pregnancy fell below the top three. I made it clear to the adults that teen pregnancy was an extremely important issue to us. However, they could not do anything about it. It was pushed to the side…

I clearly remember that I began to sob because I was so angry and frustrated. I could not believe that nothing was going to be done! I did not understand this. If not us, then who was going to offer the support they needed? Who was going to empower them? Why? Why? Why? They simply said that they could refer them to other services. Before, I did not know of any organization that did advocacy work for teenage pregnancy or sexual health and reproductive rights. I was aware that Planned Parenthood existed but I only thought they offered medical services.

In these past elections, all of the Texas Freedom Network Student Chapters participated in a state-wide civic engagement project to register young people to vote and get them out to vote! Also, we informed them about the State Board of Education elections. In Texas, the SBOE has the authority to revise, review, and edit the curriculum from K-12 in public schools. By bringing awareness to the issue of the ineffective abstinence-only programs and the SBOE, we hoped to elect members who will fight to remove ignorance and censorship from the health curriculum.

Directing people to their poll sites

In the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, we registered over 100 students to vote. Up until Election Day, we informed and directed students of polling locations. Now, I hope that the new members of the SBOE will begin to formalize their plans for a new type of sex education— comprehensive sex education. I do not want injustices like the one that I encountered when I was 16 to happen again.

https://www.facebook.com/tfnatutbrownsville

http://www.tfn.org/educate

  • http://www.facebook.com/garrettmize Garrett Mize

    April, This is a great entry! It’s cool to learn about some of your earlier activism before AFY & TFN! Keep up the passion!