Fourteen years ago this month, my mother, brother and I migrated to Oregon to be reunited with my father.
As a young immigrant, I remember going to high school and how horrible it was to consistently try to figure out the culture and language. As a teenager I would get out of school and, like most of my fellow new immigrants, we would spend our time trying to find signs of belonging.
I was fortunate enough to have the immigrant rights movement find me, and through activism I was shaped into the leader I am today. It was 11 years ago when I knocked on that first door for an issue that mattered to me.
Back then, the fighting and canvassing was for an immigration reform; it frustrates and saddens me that after so many years, we still have not had any immigration reform.
However, in 2015, the youth of Woodburn have access to many more resources than the ones I had when I was a high school student. They have a welcoming place at the CAPACES Leadership Institute. The 2014-15 RE-TURNO cohort has met for 39 weeks and together they have pushed each other to connect their values and ideals with social justice. The students have also encouraged each other to pursue higher education.
In April, seven of the TURNistas were given the opportunity to travel to New York City. Together we visited our partner organization, Make the Road New York, to find out what Oregon and New York have in common in terms of the movement. What they were able to learn in the five days they were there was that the most valuable asset the two places share is leadership. The students came back embracing their leadership abilities and using them to take action about issues that matter to them.
Last month there was a bond measure on the ballot that would positively impact the Woodburn School District if it passed. In the last few weeks leading to the election, these young leaders met at CAPACES after school and worked on their homework before heading out to knock on doors and inform their community about the importance of this measure.
“¿Se Puede? ¡Así Se Puede!” (Can we??Yes we can!) Those were the words our youth chanted as they celebrated the victory of the bond measure last Tuesday, May 19.
Now our youth are acting like community leaders at a much younger age than I ever did.
Although Oregon suffered a defeat with Measure 88 back in November, the Woodburn youth continued their work with other issues.
Their perseverance and commitment to the movement has kept them working hard against all odds.
Some of these students will soon be stepping into institutions of higher education and potentially leaving our beloved town of Woodburn.
In a week, CAPACES will host an event to celebrate the end of the school year and the victories that came with it.
We hope this celebration will also remind them that CAPACES Leadership Institute is not the place where leaders are created but it is a place where leaders gather and grow together.
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