Breaking the glass ceiling: Archer activists work toward social justice

Climate-action+youth+advocates+gather+in+downtown+Los+Angeles+for+the+Youth+Climate+Strike+Los+Angeles+24-+Hour+Strike+on+Sept.+24-25%2C+2021.+Multiple+activities+took+place+around+Los+Angeles+demanding+Governor+Gavin+Newsom+to+pass+measures+to+help+save+the+climate.

Photo credit: @badgalriri1011

Climate-action youth advocates gather in downtown Los Angeles for the Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles 24- Hour Strike on Sept. 24-25, 2021. Multiple activities took place around Los Angeles demanding Governor Gavin Newsom to pass measures to help save the climate.

By Lucy Williams, Staff Reporter

Barriers such as gender, race and age have turned students around the world away from political involvement. Youth activists such as Greta Thunberg and Thandiwe Abdullah are emerging from the shadows and demanding change from the world’s leaders. Archer student activists have joined the fight, collaborating with Archer’s Artemis Center of Public Service and Social Good and joining committees to support issues spanning from climate change to racial justice.

History teacher Beth Gold correlates this increase of involvement to the direct impact recent current events have had on students.

“An upside to the heated political climate right now is that it has engaged youth. People who are analyzing voting see a much higher engagement of students right now,” Gold said. “Politics are impacting people’s lives in a more literal way, like wearing a mask or the Jan. 6 events at the Capitol. These issues are activating students in a way that has reduced student apathy, and we see that in the young voter turnout at the polls.”

The Artemis Center of Public Service and Social Good is an Archer program that promotes political involvement and educates students about activism. Politically active students work with the center to commit to change, work on projects and create opportunities where students can see their classmates making a difference in society. Gold is the faculty adviser for the program.

“Students in the Artemis Center have opportunities to be educated by speakers and learn how to amplify their voices,” Gold said. “Paula Hoffman is out there at the climate change event, pushing environmental issues. Last year, we had three students who were really involved in the high school votes with the organization Michelle Obama created. We created a number of opportunities for them, including texting parties online and voter registration drives on campus.”

Senior Paola Hoffman joined the Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles in 10th grade. They are the Los Angeles denomination of the Global Climate Organization where volunteers advocate for climate justice reaching out to politicians and organizing strikes. Hoffman is a graphic designer, organization contactor, social media campaigns manager, event planner and strikes marshal. They sponsored the 24-hour climate strike in Downtown Los Angeles held Sept. 24-25. Their main mission is to educate youth about the current situation and give them the tools to make change.

“Then we use their knowledge to impact change, as well as political and legislative change. We need to be able to convince the elected officials that are supposed to be standing for us, to fully stand for us, in relation to fighting the climate crisis,” Hoffman said. “The point was to invigorate people after these years in the pandemic, to say there’s still a movement out there waiting for you with open arms — you will fit right in.”

Paola Hoffman '22 was a strike marshal for the 24 hour Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles in September 2021. The goal of the strike was to "target Big Oil in this action and demand freedom from fossil fuels" of Governor Gavin Newsom.
Paola Hoffman (’22) was a strike marshal for the 24-hour Youth Climate Strike in Los Angeles on Sept. 24-25, 2021. The goal of the strike was to “target Big Oil in this action and demand freedom from fossil fuels” of Governor Gavin Newsom. (Photo credit: @badgalriri1011)

Junior Lizette Gonzalez has ventured outside of the Archer community to participate in politics. She has been on the board of Democrashe, a program that trains and empowers diverse female high schoolers in the political sphere, for almost a year. She and eight other student leaders across the country lead the board with the help of three adult mentors. In their 12-week program, starting in February, Democrashe will offer public speaking workshops, civic 101 information, a stipend and insight from intersectional female political representatives.

“As someone who comes from a low-income, first-generation power pole, politics has never been the main topic of conversation. I had to go out of my way to get political knowledge because of the barrier that exists. Going to an all-girls school, I’ve been empowered to combat those barriers, and that’s why I joined Democrashe,” Gonzalez said. “Political involvement is important because the young generation is the world we are going to be running in 20 years. We need to learn how we can combat our problems so future generations have better opportunities.”

Junior Charlotte Tragos has been working to combat similar barriers through her political involvement ever since 2016. In 2017, she congressionally volunteered in the Katie Hill campaign in the 25th district and continued volunteering for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races. In 2019 and 2020, she interned for the Lincoln Project, a Republican organization dedicated to defeating Trump and getting Biden elected. She now manages a political commentary column on The Oracle. Her goal is to bridge the connection between young people and politics in our society.

“Young people really don’t vote. So many issues could be addressed, including police reform, environmental and reproductive rights. If you can’t vote in an election, you can do so many things to support democracy like pre-register, volunteer, pull watch and protest,” Tragos said. “Through my column, I’ve been trying to get the word out about these important topics and educate young women of Archer about the importance of getting involved in civic engagement.”

Age restrictions on voting and office eligibility have also caused students to refrain from getting involved. Tragos stressed the importance of practicing the opposite: students need to be as involved as ever to diversify political representatives.

“Something that we need to focus on in the 2022 midterms and beyond is getting intersectional, marginalized identities in positions of power,” Tragos said. “There are so many roadblocks with women of color, transgender folks and people who are not able-bodied, but there should be youth from all backgrounds at the table. It’s very much a white man and a white woman’s game, and it really shouldn’t be.”

Active political students are breaking barriers at Archer, and the root of this change is knowledge and passion. Through Artemis Center projects, organizations and various opportunities, youth can make a change.

“It’s not for everybody. But I am always inspired by those who are feeling a sense of agency, a sense of empowerment, a sense of  ‘I can do this,'” Gold said. “They have a sense of service, commitment to making the world a better place and high ideals.”