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Criminal Justice Reform - "Locking Up Our Own"

When I came home from my arts-focused sleep away camp, I noticed a book on my mother's desk, "Locking Up Our Own" by James Forman Jr. My Dad saw me pick it up and told me the author would be speaking at a San Francisco bookshop the following week. I had read the book "Monster" by Walter Dean Myers in English class and visited the San Francisco Public Defenders office with the Youth Policy Camp, so I decided to go.

The last time I attended a bookstore for an author event was to see a picture book writer read to children. This was much different.

Forman, a well-respected Yale Law professor and former public defender, discussed policies from the '70s and '80s that were aimed at addressing rising crime rates, but resulted in the mass incarceration of blacks. Forman explained that many of the African-American officials taking office after the Civil Rights movement were the ones who lobbied for measures against drug-dealing and gun violence at the request of …
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Youth Policy Camp

Earlier this month, I attended a civics and leadership camp run by the non-profit organization, Youth Policy Initiative. The five-day camp was hosted at a local high school and aimed to teach middle schoolers about local/national issues, how the government works, and how citizens might influence policy.

Students were sorted into small groups and assigned a topic. My group's topic was public education. With the help of some high school student teachers, we did some research and learned a fair amount about public education, how it is funded, and the issues it faces nationally. This information would later be put to use as we explained our topic to other groups, discussed the issues on a field trip with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and wrote bills to pass through a US Senate simulation.

Another goal set by the camp's founder was to improve students' public speaking skills and help them become the leaders their communities need. Being somebody who is extremely shy a…

#NewUSCitizen

On Wednesday the 17th of May, my mother was sworn in as a citizen of the United States of America. We attended the ceremony where 1,063 people from 82 different countries became citizens. It was powerful, seeing all the countries represented in that room. It was inspiring to realize that each and every one of these people was, from this point on, committed to this country, and had hope for its future. The ceremony marked the end of a very long journey, as well as the end of uncertainty and fear for a lot of families. I loved seeing the voter registration tables outside the venue and all the volunteers who were so enthusiastic to welcome our newest citizens and encourage them to vote. 




My Thoughts on Immigration

I am the daughter of immigrants, as are most of my classmates (if not immigrants themselves). I believe it is very important for everybody to know that we live in a nation of refugees and immigrants. Unless your ancestors are Native American or were kidnapped from Africa and brought here as slaves, immigrants and refugees are your parents, grandparents, and so on.
I was always somewhat aware of the importance of immigrants. As a younger child, I asked my mother, who is Mexican, why all the workers in San Francisco restaurant kitchens were latino. She answered that it wasn’t because all latinos are good cooks (much to my surprise), but because they might not have that many opportunities outside the kitchen. She explained that they might not have a college education, or might not speak English well enough. That’s when I realized that immigrants do much of the work that goes unseen. They clean the streets and buildings, wash the dishes, harvest and make the food, and so much more. They …

A Letter From My Candidate

Receiving this letter made my day. I always assumed I would get some sort of response, most likely a generic letter from her office. But I never expected to get such a personal note. I will cherish this letter and take her words to heart. I feel more motivated than ever to make my voice be heard.



My Letter to Hillary

Dear Hillary Clinton,
My name is Elena, and I am 12 years old. I currently live in California, and am in the seventh grade. I have been a tremendous fan of yours since 2008 when you ran against President Obama in the Primary Election. My parents would gather the family, (then just my Mother, Father and I) and sit in front of a very old antenna TV to watch the Democratic debates and convention. I’d like to think that I, only 4 years old at the time, would speak with them intelligently about the political issues being addressed among the candidates, but it was not so. I barely understood what half your words meant, much less the importance of the event taking place on the screen. It all sounded awfully boring to four year old me, but I didn’t care. I liked to watch. Why? Because I thought you were great. Of course, I didn’t understand how great at the time, but pretty great. Great enough for me to sit at the table and draw detailed pictures of you in your orange pantsuit.



Now fast forwa…

The Day After

It was hard to wake up to the news this morning that America chose Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton. We did have a few bright spots, though:

1- Nevada turned blue.

2- Nevada elected the first Latina senator, Catherine Cortez Masto

3- We elected some great new women senators: Kamala Harris from California, Tammy Duckworth, Illinois and hopefully Maggie Hassan from New Hampshire. Maybe one of them will become president one day?!?

Maybe there's hope because if you look at this map on how young people voted, it is clear that they would have given us a different president.









Here we are at the beginning of the evening when we still thought Hillary's path to the White House would look like this:






Imagine if we didn't have the Electoral College. Hillary Clinton (like Al Gore in 2000) would be our president because she won the popular vote by more than 200,000 votes (and counting). Maybe it's time to consider whether we should have an Electoral College.


Sidebar: Our favor…