Amidst the calls for changes on national issues regarding race, gun control, or climate change in the last years, students across San Diego have discovered various platforms to voice their opinions and ideals.
In response to the rising diversity and equity issues nationwide, Ayana Johnson, a Torrey Pines High School senior, founded the school’s first Black Student Union. She has helped bring a voice and provided a tight-knit community to students of color on campus. In collaboration with several district board members, she has also connected with other schools and local organizations to plan diversity awareness events.
“I have always been passionate about diversification in my school,” Johnson said. “With more focus on political and racial issues, we can come to a mutual understanding which will be important for our future.”
In addition, Lea Nepomuceno, a Scripps Ranch High School senior and newly appointed San Diego Unified Student Board Member, promises district change with plans to dismantle discriminatory grading policies and improve student safety and nutrition services.
As one of the founding members of Youth for Justice Reform, a journalistic educational resource, she has also brought to light stories of formerly incarcerated individuals to change the media portrayal of the criminal justice system.
“We say a person is a person, not their crime. Our main goal is to de-stigmatize how formerly incarcerated individuals are portrayed in the media,” Nepomuceno said. San Diego Unified Student Board Member Matthew Quitoriano, a San Diego High School sophomore sharing Nepomuceno’s advocacy of student representation, cites that a combination of national and local issues has spurred his increased political activism.
“It’s a combination of the big picture idea that students across the nation are struggling and [dealing with] violence and people getting hurt. And also getting emails talking to friends talking to other students at many different schools,” Quitoriano said, referring to the issues of mental health and internet policies he aims to address in his term.
At Westview High School, senior student Grace Mordhorst runs the Political Awareness club to create a safe space for political discussion and promote civic engagement. In the past, members have helped set up voter registration for those of age to vote. As an individual, Mordhorst volunteers at the nonprofit San Diego 350 in the youth group Youth4Climate, urging Governor Gavin Newsom to stop issuing oil drilling permits.
Knowing that the next generation of politicians come from today’s youth, Mordhorst considers it more significant for students to participate in politics early on.
“Youth often present a more future-oriented perspective on issues because we are going to be here longer than a lot of legislators currently holding office, which I think is an important and unique perspective to consider,” Mordhorst said.
The growing student political participation in San Diego represents only a snapshot of what our nation’s young generation has to offer, with more to come.