This is what California's teenagers want from the next president
By Sonali Kohli
Oct 19, 2016 | 3:00 AM
We asked students across Southern California, "What is the one issue you want the next president to address?" This is what they said.
Most teenagers can't vote in this election. But they know what they’d like to say to the next president.
L.A. Times High School Insider asked current and recent high school students what issues are important to them, and what they want the next president to know.
More than 140 students chimed in, most from Southern California. Many asked for immigration reform so they won’t have to be afraid that they’ll return home from school to find their parents deported. They want college to be affordable so they’re not weighed down by student debt before they get a chance to contribute to their country. They want to know that the president will put aside partisan politics and lead. They also want to protect the marginalized: those who fear being shot by police, those who need safe bathrooms.
Here are some of their messages, addressed to their future president.
I see African Americans getting shot and killed on a weekly basis on the news and I don’t want to be another hashtag.
I am scared to grow up. I am scared to not be in the protection of my mother and father. I am scared that when it’s time to go to college, thousands of miles away from my parents, I’m going to be harassed by a police officer.
I see African Americans getting shot and killed on a weekly basis on the news and I don’t want to be another hashtag. I don’t want to be that other black girl who was gunned down at a traffic stop.
I want my future president to help put a stop to this abuse. I need my future president to help me make sure I have a future and that my brother and sisters have a future as well.
[Immigrants] come to the U.S. for a new life, but oftentimes they don’t get that.
I’m a Latino, born and raised in Los Angeles, and I have noticed that undocumented immigrants don’t have rights to be part of the United States. Just because they are immigrants doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be treated equally. Both my parents are naturalized citizens. They always tell me about the struggle they faced when they first arrived in the United States.
Even though they have their papers, they are treated as if they are nothing. I’m tired of witnessing immigrants being rejected [for] a job because they’re undocumented. They have families they have to raise and, by not being able to get a job, they can’t put food on the table and live the American dream. People come to the U.S. for a new life, but oftentimes they don’t get that.
My question to you is how will you help the people who have all these issues? Will you be courageous enough to legalize people who are undocumented? How will you make that difference, or a better question, will you be the one to make that difference?
I don’t want my list of colleges to be limited by what my family can and cannot afford.
College is expensive. Its lack of affordability binds me. I don’t want my list of colleges to be limited by what my family can and cannot afford. I don’t want to get accepted to my dream college only to be forced to turn it down. I don’t want to worry about whether I will be able to attend college outside of San Diego, simply because of the cost of room and board.
Upon entering the adult world, I ask that I not be crushed by the weight of my debt. I want to continue to the next chapter of my life without being cornered by stress and worry and having my every step affected by my decision to pursue a higher education.
I don’t want to force my own financial burdens on my mom, who will have to take out loans to pay for my schooling while still having two other daughters to support and to later put through college. It frustrates all of us. I will still be in school when the next one of us reaches this point in her life. Although she hasn’t yet realized how soon this will affect her, I don’t want to think about how my debt will shrink her window of opportunity further.
I need it to weigh heavily on your mind that the largest-scale mass murder of LGBTQ+ people happened this year.
I want to live in a country where I don’t have to fight tooth and nail just so that people in my community can feel safe. I need it to weigh heavily on your mind that the largest-scale mass murder of LGBTQ+ people happened this year: not centuries ago, not decades ago, but this year, the year you are stepping in to take office.
I need you to be aware of how LGBT people of every age, race, sexuality, gender, income level and location in America are highly susceptible to hate crimes, abuse, sexual assault, homelessness, bullying, discrimination and murder. I need to know that it terrifies you as much as it terrifies me, as much as it informs my every decision, as much as it impacts my ability to trust others or express myself. I need to know this on behalf of myself, a lesbian teenager, and on the behalf of every single queer person I’ve ever met, befriended or loved.
We need you to make a change. You want to make this country a better place? We’ll believe it when we see less of our friends, less of our heroes, less of our innocents suffering, fighting and dying.
Be a role model to my peers and me, both in policy and in character.
I’m tired of American exceptionalism — of glorifying our leaders as something more than human. I want a president who is honest — simple as that. I want a president who doesn’t present themselves as superhuman, but manages to embody the qualities a leader (or any person) should: empathy, candor, justice, compassion.
A politician who attempts perfection will be an incredible disappointment when their flaws surface. Be representative, but not patronizing. Live our struggles next to us, but use your authority and influence to prevent them in the future. Admit our nation’s mistakes, and vow not to repeat them. Stop leaving blanks in our history textbooks where the names of the slaves and Native Americans should be; we built this nation on their backs. Let it be okay to be queer, transgender, an ethnic minority, a female, gender non-binary, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist. Fight back with grace and resilience, and don’t back down.
You must promote acceptance, not just tolerance. Be a role model to my peers and me, both in policy and in character.