Helping Grow Global Citizens in South LA
Just two days before the submission deadline for the Global Citizens Youth Summit, David Gomez was, in his words, “a hot mess”. Luckily, Gomez, a Junior at Ánimo Jackie Robinson Charter High School, had the guidance and support from the people who nominated him, teacher Jasmin Gonzalez and Principal Kristin Botello.
Months passed and just before school let out for summer break, David was accepted. “It was an honor just to be nominated but even better to be going,” he said. “Traveling without family or friends makes me nervous but I’m proud to represent Los Angeles and my community in this way.”
The Global Citizens Youth Summit (GCYS) brings a select group of youth scholars from around the world to investigate the idea of global citizenship. Gomez is attending the summit on behalf of Ánimo Jackie Robinson and Los Angeles at Harvard University Faculty Club. During the Summit, students choose to focus on education, environmental protection, or equity.
Gomez picked education.
Following the Summit, scholars will take action and follow their passion in taking on complex global problems in their local communities.
Focus on education
“I come from a community where the education isn’t the best and where the biggest stereotype is that everyone is in a gang,” Gomez says. “Every day I work hard to not perpetuate that stereotype. If we can bring good education here, we can make a difference.”
At the Summit, Gomez will collaborate with other scholars and investigate ideas that can change their communities. “I feel like I can do so much more with my education and bring real change to my community that desperately needs it,” says Gomez.
Support to start something
Among the high schools in his neighborhood, Gomez chose to attend Ánimo Jackie Robinson. He liked the idea of a smaller school and teachers knowing students’ names. “The great thing about this school is that the teachers are on you. These teachers really don’t want us to fail, and try their best to make our lives better,” says Gomez.
The support he received from staff at school provided Gomez the opportunity to start his own club to address the homelessness in his neighborhood. “There are a lot of homeless people in South Los Angeles. It’s a big issue in this community,” Gomez says. “To me, that really hits home hard. On my way to school I see 10 to 15 tents. It’s not the safest place to be, but it’s our community. It’s up to us to uplift.”
Gomez, along with five other students, decided to do something about it. In 2015, they started the club, Feed the Need. It quickly grew to 25 students by the end of 2016, with Gomez as the Founder and President.
“We want to expose students to different aspects of the community. We don’t just want to inspire people, we want them to feel the need to do something,” says Gomez.
Feed the Need encourages students to volunteer at homeless shelters and Skid Row.
When asked what stands out most about Gomez, Principal Kristin Botello said, “David is selfless. He puts others before him, and he is reflective.” Principal Botello adds, “he listens, thinks and makes decisions based on careful thought. This drives his actions and his discourse.”
A true believer
Gomez’ proven leadership and passion for his community made him an obvious nominee for the Global Citizens Youth Summit. “When it comes to social justice issues, David has always been the student to question societal norms and appreciate the steps that people in history have taken to promote equity across the globe,” says Ms. Gonzalez. “David represents the ideals of unity and justice in and outside the classroom. He just wants to help people, and honor those who have mentored him.”
Both Ms. Gonzalez and Principal Botello helped Gomez submit his application because they believe in his ability to lead and create change. “He is a great student leader, because he does not seek the limelight, but instead, observes, notices what is missing, and acts to fill gaps,” says Principal Botello. “He is driven by empathy and compassion, and he is not afraid to speak up and stand up for others.”
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