By Matthew Acosta, Oct. 18, 2022
Nearly 200 high school students attended the 8th annual Young Leaders Empowerment Summit at Cal Poly Pomona to learn about the importance of civic engagement on Oct. 7.
According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, youth turnout at the polls has been at all-time high in the past two elections and will be important in the upcoming midterm elections in key political battleground states.
“The opportunities come when people have the right to express themselves and the power to vote,” said California Secretary of State, Shirley Weber, during the event. “When you give up your vote, you have empowered someone else who may not even like you.”
The theme of the event “Amplify Your Voice Through Action” was represented by the keynote speaker for the summit as Weber shed light on her childhood and the importance of voting that she felt from an early age.
According to Weber, who is Black, her parents were not allowed to vote until the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. During her youth, her mother would volunteer their home as a polling location, which helped her see the impact of voting.
CPP student and CSU Student Trustee Diana Agular-Cruz was the emcee for the event and spoke about the importance of the summit and the role each student has in amplifying their voices to be heard at the polls.
“If we have people that look like us and people that have gone through our same experiences, then I think that the way our country and our systems run will be more equitable and just for all,” said Agular-Cruz. “I think that getting engaged at such a young age is very important to pave the way for future generations.”
Attendees were able to enjoy breakfast, listen to a performance by Mariachi Los Broncos, and were able to meet and talk with both Sen. Connie Leyva and Agular-Cruz who made their way around each table before the event began.
CPP’s Senior Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, Jonathan Grady opened up the event and quickly won over the audience as many throughout it clapped and cheered over the course of his speech.
“The stakes are high, freedom has always been a fight and yet it remains your responsibility,” said Grady. “Our responsibility to show up and to refute systems of oppression, for silence always takes the side of the oppressor.”
The summit made sure to keep as many students involved throughout the morning with many activities and chances for the students to speak.
Recently Gov. Newsom signed the “Student Civic Engagement Act,” which was written by Sen. Leyva and allows students in middle school and high school one excused absence to participate in a civic activity, such as candidate speeches, town halls and authorized protests.
One activity at the event specifically highlighted the importance of mental health of young people of today as students shared stories of how the COVID-19 pandemic brought them closer to their families and think about things that they would like to achieve in the future.
The event also included students from CPP’s Bronco Advocacy League which helped students 16 years and older to preregister to vote.
CPP President Soraya M. Coley was invited to the event to introduce the keynote speaker as well as add her own thoughts on the power that each student in the room had.
“At Cal Poly Pomona we know that education changes lives and that education plus action changes communities,” said Coley. “Each of you is the catalyst for that change.”
As the summit came to a close Leyva left the students with messages of encouragement to vote and to exercise the power that Secretary of State Weber and others had stressed throughout the event.
“Be the change you want to see in the world,” said Leyva. “What you don’t like about the world, change it, fix it, make it the thing that you are passionate about.”
Feature image by Ana Salgado
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