News and Events
Urban High School Students Examine Democratic Process at California Republican Convention
The Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP), as part of its Youth Empowerment and Research Seminar (YEARS), is sending seven southeast Los Angeles high school students to experience the California Republican Party convention this weekend in Sacramento. There, they will continue their research into the Democratic process that they began last summer when they attended the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.
The YEARS program is designed to encourage civic participation and critical research in local youth, and comes out of GSEP's partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Local District 6.
"YEARS is grounded in 10 years of research and based on the principle that when urban youth are provided the opportunity and tools necessary to critically examine the education system and democracy, students will experience a transformation that encourages them to become thoughtful leaders," said Dr. Anthony Collatos, YEARS director and assistant professor of Education at GSEP. "The students' initial political encounter at the DNC has already influenced them to take on enhanced leadership roles at their schools and in their communities. Equally rewarding is that the students' experience so excited them to become instruments of change that they all made the commitment to pursue their education after high school, and many have been accepted to four-year universities."
Mentored by a team of university professors, graduate students, and LAUSD teachers, the seven students from Bell High School, Huntington Park High School, South East High School, and South Gate High School will investigate what key issues influence democratic participation and the educational achievement of youth. Just before the DNC last year the students attended a weeklong workshop led by experts, advocates, and community leaders on research design and subjects such as civic engagement and higher education. The students then spent August 24-29 conducting surveys at the DNC, which served as a data collection site for the students' analysis of the democratic process.
This weekend, February 20-22, the students will continue collecting data at the Republican convention. Bell High School student Uriel Perez described what he hopes to gain from the experience: "At the DNC we investigated what motivates public officials to become civically engaged. I am curious to see if there are differences across the political parties and if most leaders are motivated by the same reasons."
South East High School senior Melissa Gamez is just as eager to travel to Sacramento and work with her YEARS colleagues. "Going to the DNC greatly influenced how I approach school and how I view myself as a leader," she explained. "I am excited to visit the state capitol with the YEARS group and interview Republican leaders about education and why they believe it is important to be involved."
Collatos emphasized that one of the core values of the program is to present multiple viewpoints, and encourage the students to formulate their own opinions about political issues and the political process. He offered that, "Last year students were able to attend a Democratic function, and this year we will balance that with our visit to a Republican function. During the DNC we were interested in how the events taking place would influence the outcome of the impending election. During this trip we are interested in how the Republican Party will address the current budget crisis. All of these opportunities allow the students to fully investigate a variety of perspectives about leadership, education, and civic engagement."
Martin Galindo, superintendent of LAUSD Local District 6, agreed: "Working with the YEARS program and attending these political conventions are life changing opportunities for our students."
To find out more about the YEARS program, visit www.yearsproject.org.