Marguerite Casey Foundation presented 12 young community leaders with the Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Leadership Award, in honor of their vision, passion and dedication to improving the lives of families in their communities. Each of the honorees received an award of $5,000 in recognition of their leadership.
This is the fourth year that Marguerite Casey Foundation has presented the Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Leadership awards. The award is named for Sargent Shriver, architect of the War on Poverty and visionary leader of Head Start, Peace Corps, Job Corps and VISTA, who worked throughout his life to provide opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty.
Each of the 12 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty has shown resolve and courage in standing up for those who are often neglected by society: the homeless, immigrant families, farmworkers, low-income students. Rather than waiting for change to happen, this year’s honorees are making change in their communities by speaking out, organizing their neighbors, meeting with legislators, and leading protests and rallies.
Luz Vega-Marquis, president and CEO of Marguerite Casey Foundation, said of the honorees: “These young people are inspirations to us all. Their activism – rooted in their own personal experience — reminds us that each of us can make a difference by simply standing up for what is right and what is needed in our communities. By taking action to remake their communities and their world, each of them is carrying on the legacy of Sargent Shriver.”
2015 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty
Roshell is an active member of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!). Roshell, an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States at the age of three, became involved when the anti-immigrant bill HB 56 was introduced, attending marches and rallies against the bill. She has stayed involved in the fight for immigrant justice and has also become active with the Adelante Alabama Worker’s Center. In April 2014, she attended the National Domestic Workers Alliance annual congress in Washington D.C. This summer she will be attending Anytown Alabama, a social justice camp, and is hoping to join ¡HICA! as an intern, with one of her key projects helping to identify scholarship opportunities for undocumented Latino youth.
Aminah, a senior in high school, has been active for five years with Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). She has worked for several years with Pillars of IMAN, a youth mentoring program. She has also helped support the Health and Wellness Corner Store campaign, which encourages stores to offer healthier food options. She has worked in a number of other roles at IMAN, ranging from working with after-school programs to advocating for policy changes to youth organizing. Rami Nashashibi, director of IMAN, called Aminah “one of the most gifted young people with whom I have ever worked.”
Bigelow – a hip hop performer and a youth organizer – has worked with Silicon Valley De-Bug on a variety of issues including affordable housing, job creation, and economic justice. He was active during the 2012 living wage campaign for San Jose, using his art to shine a light on the challenges faced by low-wage workers. He also helps conduct writing workshops for foster care youth and youth in the probation system. He is currently working on a documentary tracking the lives of homeless residents of San Jose who were displaced when “The Jungle,” one of the largest homeless encampments in the country, was closed and dismantled in 2014.
Victoria has worked since 2013 with Organizers in the Land of Enchantment (OLÉ) – initially as a paid intern and then volunteering for campaigns. She has become deeply involved in creating Makerspaces (places where community members can share resources, tools, and space for working on projects) in Early Education Centers and conducting trainings for small children in order to spark their interest in computers and STEM subjects. She has also become a leader in the Fair Work Week campaign, with the goal of providing fair scheduling and paid sick leave for over 160,000 low-wage workers in Albuquerque.
Corleone has been active for years with Khmer Girls in Action (KGA). He helps run the Young Men’s Empowerment program at KGA, which provides support for Southeast Asian youth to become leaders in their community and their lives. He also participated in the Every Student Matters campaign, which promotes practices and policies in the Long Beach school district that help students stay in school and graduate on time. He has visited the state capitol in Sacramento several times to speak on behalf of his community. He shows a great understanding of the intersectionality of issues and how local and national (or global) politics are connected.
Sarah Mozelle Johnson, 20
Nominated by Chicago Equal Voice Network
Sarah has been involved in work to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline. She is motivated by her autistic younger brother, who she saw as a potential casualty of zero tolerance school policies. She began volunteering with Communities United (formerly Albany Park Neighborhood Council) in 2012. She has spoken at rallies, advocated policies to require all Illinois schools to publicly report data on school discipline, and organized youth to get involved and advocate on their own behalf.
Osvaldo is studying political science at the University of Texas Pan-American. He began an internship with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in 2013, working with the Farmworker Team to help develop a training program to educate farmworkers and their families about their rights. He helped create a manual for farmworkers, and conducted extensive outreach and training to farmworkers in Oklahoma, Iowa, Indiana and Illinois.
Marco first started organizing with Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy (CASE) in 2012, when he became involved in the campaign to vote Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio out of office. He led a volunteer team at his high school, organized voter registration drives and led neighborhood canvasses. After the election, he continued to lead a team of volunteers to drive Latino voter engagement campaigns, support worker organizing campaigns, and lead protests at the state capitol. Brendan Walsh, the executive director of CASE, writes, “We at CASE feel enormously lucky to have Marco as part of our family.”
Nidia is a junior at the University of Texas at Brownsville, where she is studying to become a mathematics teacher. She is the first member of her family to go to college. She been involved with the Brownsville Border Youth program of Proyecto Juan Diego since 2013, helping to organize Brownsville youth in group activities and to raise their awareness of social and political issues. She is passionate about her community and other border colonias, and wants to work to help improve basic services and to make sure colonias are not invisible in systems such as 911 services.
Eduardo was a leader in the recent campaign to pass the School Climate Bill of Rights in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Working with InnerCity Struggle, he led student petition drives and organized several rallies in support of the new policy, which eliminates suspensions for “willful defiance” and moves the school district toward more progressive discipline policies. He is also active in the Brothers, Sons, Selves coalition, which works to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, and was involved in the recent victorious campaign to pass Proposition 47.
Jasmin was introduced to Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) in high school through their youth group, JUMP (Jovenes Unidos por un Mejor Presente). The first campaign she worked on was working with other youth to fight the deportation of Alejandro Guizar (2014 Shriver awardee.) She has since grown into a powerful advocate, and holds positions of leadership in JUMP, the women’s committee, and TIRRC’s board. She is deeply involved in work to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and to implement the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, and often speaks to classes, churches, and other groups to provide information about Administrative Relief for immigrant students.
Naudika, a sophomore in high school, has worked for two years with Californians for Justice and has become a strong advocate for education and for her fellow students. She was a key leader in the Student Voice Campaign, which successfully passed a new policy to require school districts to seek input from low-income students, English learners, and foster youth. She has attended dozens of meetings with legislators and school boards, and has helped organize rallies in Sacramento to advocate for students. She lists as one of her proudest victories the creation of a student advisory committee for the Oakland School District – the first district in California to create one – giving students a voice in how the district allocates money and prioritizes needs.