This year, Esperanza Academy’s high school social studies class took part in the BoricuActivatEd series, a program designed to elevate the voices of Puerto Rican youth in the diaspora through education and civic engagement. Students had weekly sessions where they were exposed to leadership and civic development curriculum and learned about policy advocacy, centered on communities of color. The series was led by Jennice Fuence, Founder & CEO of BoricuActivatEd, in coordination with Justin Jackson, Esperanza Academy High School’s Political Science Teacher. The class also had the opportunity to learn from different speakers, such as Judy Schneider, a Specialist in Congress with over four decades of experience at the Congressional Research Service.
Weekly sessions led to the program’s closing ceremony, where students presented policy proposals to elected officials and their representatives. Students met with a variety of politicians on a diverse range of topics including mental health background checks for those applying for driver’s licenses, schools being required to provide menstrual hygiene products, the reintroduction of red flag laws to make political progress against gun violence, passing legislation for independent investigations for police officers who have used deadly force, and a $6 million financial request to repair parks in North Philadelphia. The students met with State Senator Art Haywood, Christopher Johnson (the regional representative for U.S. Senator Bob Casey), and Anuj Gupta (the Chief of Staff to U.S. Congressman Dwight Evans).
“It’s inspiring to see the evolution of a young person who starts the class not even knowing the name of the elected officials who represent him and ends up leading a meeting with that elected official during the graduation exercises,” said Ms. Fuentes, who is also the Founder & Managing Partner at Fuentes Strategies, a government relations firm. “Leadership is like a muscle that all young people have and it’s our job to activate it and help them exercise it. At Esperanza, we see the leaders of tomorrow coming together and taking the initiative to make their communities better,” she added.
Justin Jackson, Esperanza Academy High School’s Political Science Teacher, said, “At the end of the program, students realized that they have the ability and the authority as constituents to reach out to their legislators at all levels of government with any ideas or concerns they had. Some even began considering studying political science as an avenue to a career in politics.”
For students to meet politicians and better understand the process of legislation empowers them to begin championing for the changes they want to see in their community. Esperanza Academy is incredibly proud of their students for researching, advocating, and working for a better future for themselves and their community. To learn more about BoricuActivatEd, visit www.boricuactivated.org/.