The Class Of 2012 Can Change History For U.S. Latinos

Listen closely high school seniors, the Class of 2012, this message is for you: the fate of our nation is in your hands.

If you are 18, eligible to vote and of Latino ancestry, you are probably one of the least active body of voters in the nation. Latinos under 30, such as an 18 year-old high school senior, have the lowest propensity for voting in either congressional or presidential elections. This is especially the case if your parents do not vote and/or you reside in a predominantly Latino neighborhood.

But there is hope and the U.S. Latino community can benefit from your involvement in establishing a critical mass of young leaders. Our country contains approximately 810,000 18 year-old Latinos and they are part of a much larger cluster of 18- to 24-year-old Latinos that is estimated to contain approximately 5.5 million American residents in total:

  • 5.7 million Latinos under 5 years of age
  • 11.6 million Latinos 5-17 years of age
  • 5.5 million Latinos 18-24 years of age
  • 24.7 million Latinos 25-64 years of age
  • 2.8 million Latinos 65 years of age and older

Let me break it down on a high school level. Between your graduating class and the classes of 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, collectively you represent a unique and potentially powerful generation that now accounts for 1 out of 10 Latinos in America.

Every year I observe Latino students across the country advancing their intellectual abilities, utilizing new technologies, applying their social networks and volunteering in the community at increasingly higher rates. Within that top 10% of active students who are civically engaged and politically aware, this spring is the moment when the first phase of the presidential election culminates.

An organized array of seniors who are leaders in their high schools can exponentially alter their voter turn-out and secure their political legacy in the community. A key body of students your age have historically altered the course of elections through voter mobilization and awareness campaigns. If you are serious about promoting new voters from among your age group, here are five steps that will get you known locally as the “rain maker” of your generation:

1. Learn The Processes: Learn how to register to vote, learn how to register as a candidate, learn the local election calendar, learn where you can vote in your community, learn who manages the voting locations, learn who the major campaign funders are in your community and learn how successfully local organizations are doing at mobilizing new voters from your age group.

2. Study The Issues: Study what have been identified as longstanding Latino voter issues of contention, issues that will impact your generation later in life, and what experts and entire campaigns are asserting about your generation. Read, watch and listen to how this presidential election is being portrayed by various media outlets in English and Spanish.

3. Investigate The Leaders: Investigate how they got elected, investigate how effectively they have represented their constituents, and investigate their vision of the future to confirm whether or not it is in alignment with your own understanding of what is ahead for people your age.

4. Discuss Politics With Your Elders: Throughout this year, listen to how your older siblings, relatives and neighbors as well as your friends’ families perceive the upcoming 2012 election and promote critical discussions about where your community and country are headed if particular candidates are elected.

5. Promote Your Own Initiative: Whether it is a voter mobilization campaign or a series of public debates, you can utilize your school newsletter, local newspaper, local television news stations and public radio as well as your on-line networks to amplify your strategic initiative and how to get involved.

Perhaps 1 out of 10,000 will consider this upcoming school year as the moment to seize a “perfect storm” of opportunity, but I believe these community-oriented leaders of the Class of 2012 are about to set an entirely new precedent, one that will be unlike anything we’ve seen among Latino youth before.

[Photo By robb3d]

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