A trip to Washington, D.C., geared for young Hispanics gave one Merced teen a glimpse of life outside of this city and insight into what issues impact San Joaquin Valley Hispanics.
Guadalupe Aleman, a student at El Capitan High School in Merced, went to Washington, D.C., as part of the Ready to Lead NextGen program. Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
Guadalupe Aleman, a 16-year-old El Capitan High School student, attended the Ready to Lead NextGen program in the nation’s capitol hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. During her weeklong stay, she visited historical memorials and Capitol Hill, and heard from politicians on what issues affect Latinos in the country and how young people can help bring change to their communities.
For Aleman, it was her first time out of state and her first trip on an airplane.
“I would see things on TV, and it seemed like something I would never see,” she said. “This showed me I can see these things. I’ve just got to look for the opportunities.”
Aleman is on Merced’s Youth Council and participates in Symple Equazion’s Youth I Can program.
Michelle Xiong, the youth coordinator for Building Healthy Communities, suggested the trip to Aleman.
“On the Youth Council, Lupe is shy and reserved,” Xiong said. “I thought the opportunity in D.C. could help make her more vocal and help her feel empowered. She’s in a position to be influential.”
Aleman spent July 10-15 with 60 other Latino students from across the country meeting politicians and participating in youth leadership programs. Three other Merced County students joined her.
The group learned a lot about immigration issues facing students and others in the country. Aleman said that since she’s not an immigrant, it was an educational experience.
One issue that resonated with her was the Hispanic voting rate.
“Many Hispanics don’t vote,” she said. “We could encourage other Hispanics to vote because they think they don’t have a vote. We do have a voice, and we should use it.”
“Being in Merced, oftentimes we feel sheltered from the rest of the world,” Xiong said. “I don’t really know of young people who talk about those issues. I wanted Lupe to be exposed to that environment.”
Now that she’s seen life in Washington, Aleman said she’d like to see people more involved in the community.
“Everyone says Merced is boring,” she said. “I didn’t see it because I’d never been out of the state. It inspired me to make people want to go out more.”
And she’s starting to seriously consider going to college.
“She’s really intelligent,” Xiong said. “I hope she uses this as motivation to further her education.”