Just Say YES! – Generation Justice

It was July 11, 2014 and it was a cool and early Friday morning. I found myself as I normally do when I commute somewhere: running fast and breathing hard. During my run, I stopped and took a minute to reflect. I thought about how running was such a good analogy to use for life. The number of miles represent the years of my lifespan. The fluctuating pace symbolizes how fast or slow I’m striving towards my personal goals. The destination reveals where I envision myself to be. On this particular day, my destination was the Nativo Hotel where the Youth Employment Summer Institute (YES!) convening would be held. For me, the YES! convening was the first step to coming back to Generation Justice, the first step in the right direction.

Anyone that runs a lot knows how important it is to have a music device. The right playlist can be good motivation to keep going. The YES! convening offered me that same motivation: to strive to be civically engaged and for social justice. My fellow GJ members—Izzy Mustafa, Nicholas Tollardo, Jordan Unverzagt, Victor Torres and our awesome team leader, George Luna-Pena—were there with me, as an extra source of motivation and support.

At times, running can easily feel very long and arduous. The YES! Convening was an intensive but advantageous weekend. We went through multiple workshops, from those that discussed the early history of youth organizing in this country and other that focused on social injustices like the school to prison pipeline.
The workshop that most stood out to me was the community organizing workshop with its focus on leadership. In this workshop, the trainers went over some of the key components of community organizing. Those components included: constituencies, organization, base, and leadership. Leadership stood out to me because I’m learning that being back with GJ is an opportunity for me to demonstrate and refine my own leadership. Leadership requires a member of an organization to take initiative in diagnosing an issue or problem, devise solutions by setting goals and earning the trust of other members. He or she shows integrity, responsibility and personal resolve, along with being a part of the planning and learning process.

As a recent college graduate I know that being book savvy and research oriented is what I’m used with. However, I believe that if an individual doesn’t focus on their leadership then there’s very little that can be accomplished.

At the end of a good run, I usually have a moment of personal reflection. Similarly, on the last day of the YES! convening we had a reflection exercise. We wrote down a brief account of how our lives brought us to that moment. For me, coming back to GJ was a journey.

I graduated from Sandia High School in 2009, then went to Central New Mexico Community College for my associates degree from 2009 to 2011. During those two years, I was hardly around GJ because the workload as a full-time student was heavy. At the beginning of 2012, I transferred out of state to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado for two years. I just recently graduated last May with my B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Native American Studies.

Since graduation, I’ve been going back and forth with myself on where I should be as a young man with his college degree. But I realize now that the step I took to be a part of GJ and the YES! program was my first step in the rest of my journey. As a well-known Chinese proverb says: “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.”

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