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Students Taking a Stand: M-A’s Student Activists Speak Up

Given the political events of 2016 and 2017, many high school students have become increasingly passionate about social justice issues. Unfortunately, as minors, many face hurdles when it comes time to actually materializing ideas. Socially aware and politically active students at M-A must find creative ways to create positive change,

Junior Maria Ornes

What: Volunteers at her church to help immigrants and their children.
Ornes is an Elder on the Committee of Hospitality and Faith Education at her church. As part of this role, she adopted an idea from the Sequoia Union High School District to create a backup plan for children of undocumented immigrants. Ornes helps pair citizen families with citizen students who have non-citizen parents. That way, if the parents are deported, their children can stay and live with the backup/pair families, who will give them a place to live and help them finish school.

When: Ornes estimates that she volunteers about 16 hours a week — two hours a day, and four hours on Sundays.

Why: Ornes has always loved volunteering, but she never took much action until M-A Leadership required her to engage in a specific number of hours of service work. However, the political tension and fear surrounding the election of 2016 inspired her to go above and beyond her required hours, so she continued volunteering even once her Leadership time commitment ended.

“I know people that are going to be affected most — my gay friends, trans friends, people who are undocumented students at M-A … [working to help them] is a really amazing experience.”

Now that she is heavily involved with this project, Ornes said that the most fulfilling part of volunteering is actually meeting the people she is helping, interacting with them, and seeing the final outcome.

Challenges: Aside from volunteering, Ornes is involved in sports and theater, as well as her regular junior year homework. Balancing all four commitments has proven to be one of the most difficult parts of engaging in regular service work.

She also added that sometimes people who don’t believe in what she is doing approach and challenge her. Because she feels more strongly about her work than she did before she was directly involved in it, she has noticed feeling more tension and anger when someone confronts her.

“You have talked to so many people who have been affected by this, and then for [someone] not to believe in that … it’s startling.”

Advice: When asked what advice she had for students interested in engaging in activism, Ornes replied that “it’s not as much of a time commitment as you think, and it’s not as hard to find projects as you think.”

There are several different clubs, websites, and needs to be met, even within the M-A community. She recommended the GSA, LUMA, or Leadership to students interested in becoming activists on their own campus. “Even if you don’t personally feel strongly about the issue, it’s still impactful to the people affected by it,” she concluded.

Freshman Andrea Nugent

What: Attended the Pride parade in 2015, and has since become passionate about LGBT+ issues.
In 2015, Nugent attended Pride with her aunts and had the opportunity to ride on a parade float. The entire experience really opened her eyes to social justice issues, about which she has become increasingly passionate during the election season.

When: Attending Pride was a one-time event, although a very fulfilling one. Nugent made a t-shirt before she went, but aside from spending the day in San Francisco, it was not a significant time commitment.

Why: Nugent’s aunts always go to Pride, and in 2015 they invited her to attend with them. One of her aunts is in an LGBTQ+ band, and since said band had a parade float, Nugent was able to ride it through Pride. Her favorite part of the Pride parade was seeing “everyone come together and be themselves without any shame and just be proud of who they were.”

Challenges: The only challenge Nugent encountered on the day of Pride was that there were a few protesters who stood near the parade floats for a couple hours. There are always a few vocal opponents at every march, protest, or gathering, but fortunately, the people at Pride greatly outnumbered the protesters.

Advice: Nugent’s advice to students interested in engaging in activism is “don’t be afraid to voice your opinion … be cautious about it, but if you feel passionate about something, don’t hold yourself back out of fear.”

“There will always be people who disagree with you, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from saying how you feel.”

SF Pride Parade 2015. Credit: ABC7 News from sfcitygirl.

Freshman Avani Anne

What: Runs an activist Instagram account.
Anne runs an Instagram account (@activist.hope) where she posts human rights and activism content. She finds images from news sources and other Instagram accounts and then reposts them in her account, citing the source.

When: Anne goes about her everyday business, and when she finds something that catches her eye, she copies it and posts it on her account. Although it really varies, she tries to post at least once or twice a week.

Why: Anne first got interested in activism in seventh or eighth grade, when she hosted a gender equality event at her school as part of a history project. As she discussed the election and current events with others, she found herself becoming more passionate about social justice and advocacy. She had been thinking about creating an activist account for a long time, but Anne finally materialized her ideas after attending the M-A walk-out on November 14 and the Women’s March on January 21.

Anne said her favorite part of running an activist Instagram account is “knowing that you’re helping to change something and that somebody is thinking about what you posted or what you said.”

Challenges: One of the main challenges Anne has faced is maintaining a steady influx of followers. She said that a lot of people follow her to try and get a “follow for follow,” but then when she doesn’t follow back, they unfollow her. When asked about her hopes for the future of her account, Anne replied, “I hope that my account will get more followers, more people will hear what I have to say, and I will be able to hear from other people and grow my viewpoint.”

Advice: Anne’s advice to students looking to become activists is to “say what you believe … boost your own voice instead of silencing others.”

It is important to make sure that everybody’s voice is heard, and one person’s activism shouldn’t silence another’s. She also added that activists should be true to themselves and be willing to learn from other people.

A post from Avani’s Instagram account @activist.hope. The image is a purple background with black text that says “Protect Trans Kids.”

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