Marguerite Casey Foundation Announces 2014 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty

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This year, we are pleased to honor fifteen young men and women with Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty awards. The honorees come from eight different states and range in age from 16 to 24. Each of them is living out Sargent Shriver’s legacy of sustained community engagement to create meaningful social change.

This is the third year that Marguerite Casey Foundation has presented the Youth Warriors Against Poverty 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.

This year’s honorees are not just participants in social justice work – they are leading the way. They have taken action in their schools to reduce violence and challenge biased discipline policies. They have stood up for low-wage workers by demanding living wages and fair working conditions. They have mobilized in support of immigrants by fighting against discriminatory laws and deportations, and educating their immigrant neighbors about their rights under the law.

They are also helping to inspire their peers and members of their community to raise their voices through public speaking and social media, and to share their stories through art, music and video.  Through their work in their communities, these young people are carrying out Sargent Shriver’s call to “serve, serve, serve!”

See a listing of past winners at our website. Learn more about previous Shriver award honorees in the Equal Voice News series America’s Next Leaders. Watch a video of our past honorees below.

2014 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty

2014 Shriver Warriors Against Poverty, with President & CEO Luz Vega-Marquis and members of the Foundation board of directors.

Leticia Zarazua Alvarado

Age: 21

Nominated by: Council of Mexican Federations (COFEM)

Ms. Zarazua came to the United States at the age of nine. She is a driven and ambitious student who did well in high school and is now attending community college. She has worked for over two years with COFEM, educating low-income immigrant communities like her own about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and options for college. She also works with Students for Equal Rights, a support group for undocumented students who were beneficiaries of California’s DREAM Act.

Aurea Cardiel

Age: 22

Nominated by: Equal Voice New Mexico

Aurea became a community activist during her high school years, working as a community health worker, a youth intern with Southwest Organizing Project’s youth program, and an active member of the Raza Unida Party. She has a gift for film production, which she has used to create film pieces documenting the work of local community organizations and projects. Aurea is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work, and plans to work with incarcerated youth as a clinical social worker.

Tracy Chacon

Age: 23

Nominated by: Equal Voice New Mexico

Tracy has never let challenging circumstances hold her back. She graduated high school on the honor roll, despite working multiple jobs from the age of 16. During her high school years, she also began working as a youth organizer with Southwest Organizing Project, where she says she experienced the power of direct action and peaceful organizing. Tracy is pursuing a master’s degree in social work.

Randarious Cooper

Age: 16

Nominated by: Nollie Jenkins Family Center

Randarious is the youngest member of the cohort, having just turned sixteen. However, he has already served as a youth organizer for over three years, leading campaigns against corporal punishment and disproportionate discipline in schools. He also has a talent for social media, which has been a great benefit to the staff of the Nollie Jenkins Family Center.

Cesar Cruz

Age: 21

Nominated by: Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles

Cesar, an undocumented youth leader originally from El Salvador, first became involved with Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles as a senior in high school through their community garden program. He was eager to take on more roles with the organization, and has worked to mentor high school students and to coordinate a large-scale community education project that helped 600 families sign up for the DACA program. Cesar intends to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector, where he can help inspire young people like himself from low-income communities.

Alejandro Guizar Lozano

Age: 21

Nominated by: Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition

Alejandro’s path in social justice began when he was targeted at age 19 for deportation proceedings. He met with an organizer from Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition to learn about his rights, and then began working with other youth leaders with the goal of ending deportations of DREAMers. As a result of his efforts, his own deportation was cancelled. He continued to stay involved, mobilizing resistance against the Knoxville Sheriff’s Office as they pursued an agreement with the federal government to perform the function of federal immigrant agents. After a year of public opposition and activism, the plan was dropped.

Curtis Hill

Age: 16

Nominated by: Nollie Jenkins Family Center

For the past two years, Curtis has worked with the Nollie Jenkins Family Center as a youth organizer. He has been active in an ongoing campaign to abolish corporal punishment in schools. He has also worked with “Prevention of Schoolhouse 2 Jailhouse”, which provides education and alternative strategies to zero-tolerance discipline policies. Curtis has sharpened his skills in public speaking and writing through his work as a community organizer.

Anfernee Horton

Age: 18

Nominated by: Nollie Jenkins Family Center

Anfernee has served as a youth organizer for over two years with the Nollie Jenkins Family Center. Through that work, Anfernee has taken on a leadership role as the principal investigator for the Scholars of Peace program, a student-designed program designed to address social and environmental needs in the community. He has helped to promote the use of “violence journals,” to document occurrences of violence within schools, homes and the community, and to help promote alternative ways to resolve conflicts.

Rasaan Ison

Age: 16

Nominated by: Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children

After an upsetting personal experience at his school, Rasaan dedicated himself to organizing for change. He has been working with Gina Womack (of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children) to establish a chapter of Dignity in Schools, a national campaign working against school push-out and harsh discipline policies. Rasaan has been building a youth group in New Orleans organized around suspension and expulsion. He is also a musician, and has been working on a CD of music focused on the frustrations of school push-out.

Rebecca Krueger

Age: 21

Nominated by: Florida Immigrant Coalition

Rebecca has been an active leader in the Florida Immigrant Youth Network (a member of Equal Voice for Florida’s Families). Despite not being an immigrant herself, she has committed herself to supporting Florida’s immigrant population – even putting herself on the line to engage in civil disobedience after realizing her undocumented colleagues would not able to take that risk themselves. Rebecca has also been involved in protests against Stand Your Ground legislation and in support of the Fair Food campaign of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Iris Mercado

Age: 20

Nominated by: Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition

Iris was a sixth-grader when she participated in her first political activity, lobbying at the state capital in 2005. She interned with the Workers Interfaith Network as a middle- and high-school student, providing know-your-rights trainings to day laborers during her summer vacation. As immigrants from Argentina who have called Memphis home since 2001, Iris and her family have had a strong interest in the challenges facing immigrants. She has represented Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) at the United We Dream conference in Arizona. She joined the staff of TIRRC as an organizer in 2013.

Karla Reyna

Age: 19

Nominated by: ARISE Support Center

Karla first became involved in community organizing with ARISE as a junior in high school. Karla has been active in political activism, especially around the subject of immigration. She helped with leadership and social justice trainings, get-out-the-vote campaigns, and voter education. She has also been involved in a number of volunteer activities – teaching summer reading programs, helping children learning English as a second language, and even helping to teach dance, in collaboration with Ballet Folklorico, to her colonia neighbors.

Violeta Sanchez Yanez

Age: 18

Nominated by: Alabama Organizing Project

Violeta, a first generation Mexican-American, is a dedicated activist. Working with the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!), she has spoken on panels on civil rights, immigrant rights, and the empowerment of young women. Out of a desire to learn more about social justice, she recently enrolled in Alabama Organizing Project’s Grassroots Leadership Development Program –discovering that she was the youngest person enrolled in the program “by almost a decade’s gap.” Violeta describes her commitment to social justice simply: “I know first-hand what it is like to deal with discrimination and I decided at a young age that I wanted to do something about it.”

Judith Sierra

Age: 19

Nominated by: ARISE Support Center

Judith has been connected to ARISE since 1998, when she was enrolled at the age of three in ARISE’s early childhood program. She is an engaged and active member of ARISE’s youth program, where she has received training in leadership skills and civic engagement. She has lobbied at the offices of local and state officials, and was actively involved in a campaign to block anti-immigrant legislation at the state level, helping with phone calls, texting campaigns, postcard mailings, and get-out-the-vote campaigns.

Rhonesha Victor

Age: 24

Nominated by: East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE)

Rhonesha’s activism came directly out of frustration with her underpaid position at a fast food restaurant in Oakland. When an organizer came into her restaurant, she soon found herself organizing her own co-workers, attending meetings, and organizing the first strike against their employer. She is now involved with the East Bay Organizing Committee and with Lift Up Oakland, a campaign to raise Oakland’s minimum wage.