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Mar 31, 2017 | Paulette E. Martin

Youth Leadership Program Ignites Civic Engagement in Hispanic Congregations

 

EDOT youth leaders wanted for Mi Familia Vota Leadership Program.

 

Larisa González has been an active member of St. Paul’s, Houston for more than 12 years and has no plans to slowdown. She currently teaches Godly Play, sings in the choir and is involved civically with Mi Familia Vota—a cause that is close to her heart.

“I grew up in a Hispanic family where I saw members come and go—who were deported—who came here for a better future and have been here for many years … I don’t want take my citizenship for granted and forget about everyone else who comes here for a better life,” González said.

González has volunteered for three years and currently, is working diligently alongside Mi Familia Vota’s state director, Carlos Duarte, to help create the Episcopal Diocese of Texas’ Civic Engagement Youth Leadership Development Program.

The goal of the program is to help Episcopal youth on their life-long journey of growing in faith through civic participation. The program received a grant from the Episcopal Health Foundation to support the initiative at St. Paul’s and other Episcopal churches.

“We want to create a leadership program that focuses on developing the skills and knowledge necessary to put faith into practice through civic engagement,” Duarte said.

Organizing community forums is one way to empower youth, share information and teach the skills necessary to become leaders who help educate people about their rights, provide citizenship information and voter registration and to provide opportunities for the community to meet with elected officials.

“We want to [encourage] civic engagement so our youth come together as one, go out there and create positive change—not only in our churches but in our communities,” González said.

Duarte is looking for youth leaders with the energy and desire to raise the level of civic engagement in their communities. This will give them a more powerful voice as faithful stewards of their Baptismal promises and a way to live out their faith each and every day.

With local elections in Pasadena slated for May 6, the group’s main focus is to recruit youth from Episcopal churches and encourage the Hispanic population in that area to participate and make their voices heard.

González explains there are many Hispanics who are afraid of reaching out to local law enforcement for help because most of them are not aware of their rights and are afraid of being deported.

Sixty-three percent of the population in Pasadena is Hispanic. González said that she believes city leadership should be someone who looks out for the well fare of the entire community.

The Civic Engagement Youth Leadership Development Program will reach out to the community with the following activities:

 - April 5, Know Your Rights and Citizenship Information Session at St. Alban’s, Houston

- April 23 and April 30, phone bank at St. Peter’s, Pasadena

- April 24-28 & May 1 - May 5, phone bank at Cesar Chavez High School

- April 22 & 29, canvassing in Pasadena

Episcopal youth who are interested in becoming part of the program are encouraged to contact their clergy person.

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