Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Orange County students take action

Over the last few months, students across the nation have come together to call on Congress to take action on gun violence. The following are photos taken from walkouts and marches in Orange County organized by Orange County students to make a change, including the Saddleback College walkout, the San Clemente March for Our Lives and the SOC4Change march in Irvine: 

A professor participates in Saddleback walkout.

Walkout participants bring signs against gun violence.

Student attending the San Clemente march.

Lead organizer Jackson Hinkle manages the march.

Adults supporting students at San Clemente march.

Students listening to Molly Bergan sing at  SOC4Change march 

South Orange County high school students at rally in Irvine.

5 questions with Jake Rybczyk: a student running for San Clemente City Council

San Clemente High School senior Jake Rybczyk announced his city council campaign Monday evening at the Democratic Women of South Orange County meeting. The young progressive will run for San Clemente City Council and plans to address issues such as Sunshine laws, homelessness and the environment:

What inspired you to run for city council? 

I wrote a letter to Darrell Issa asking him for a town hall to find what his opinions would be on gun control after what happened at the Parkland shooting. Jackson Hinkle, another young progressive running for city council in San Clemente, and I marched up to his office. We knocked on his door and nobody came. When finally somebody came, they were just a staffer.They disregarded us and they tried to push us to the side and had no comment on our letter. We got over 100 signatures from students all across the 49 in two hours, and we never heard a response from Darrell Issa. So that in action really made me reflect on where I am and the power that I can bring to where I live, so I decided have to step up. I have to make the change that I want to see.That really inspired me to run. 

If elected, what do you plan to see through in San Clemente? 

The first thing I think is really important is that we have Sunshine laws. These are laws that our state has adopted and it allows our cities to have all information be public within different agencies. San Clemente hasn’t adopted that. For 20 years citizens have been wanting San Clemente to adopt these laws so we know what is happening, so we know what the conversations are, so we know what different legal documents say. It's really important that we know that. We also need to protect our coast. I think it's really important that we move towards 100 percent sustainable energy, because when we see cities in Kentucky and Texas going towards that there's no reason why we here in California where we are going to be affected by climate change aren’t adopting their policies. We also need to focus on homelessness. Homelessness is something that San Clemente can't fix, but we can lead and encourage our sister cities in creating the change that we need to have a positive influence on these homeless people. They don't have a house and if they do it’s temporary. The number one thing that we can do to help is get them housing. My number one  priority which really encapsulates everything I believe in is safety. Safety goes beyond the police. Safety is our environment. It's the community that we're having our children grow up and it’s ensuring that every citizen has their voice heard. That really is the value that I want my campaign to carry through. 

What motivated you to co-found OC Students For City Council? 

All across Orange County we need to inspire young people to vote. Beyond that, if we show that our ideas work, that progressives can win, that young people can Inspire, then we can create change all across the nation and that's what has inspired me to want to found this. As you see with the momentum after the Parkland shooting, students, not the adults, but students are saying we've had enough and it's really changing the whole landscape. 

What can students do to become involved with the organization? 

If you have the passion, if you have the resources and the time to jump on and run in your city, you can go to our website and there you can get the information that you need. You can sign up to support our campaigns, you can sign up to run for yourself, and that's really the best thing you can do. If you really believe in young progressives, you can go to our website and our social media links on the website, you can support our individual campaigns and you can really step up and be a part of the voices that are coming together to create change. 

Any other thoughts on your campaign or the organization as a whole? 

I'm really excited for what we're going to do this movement. It's about we the people because that is something that our whole political landscape has kind of lost side of. If you really respect the Constitution, if you really respect the vision of our founding fathers, it's to respect we the people, not we the corporations. The elite should not be running our entire government. It should be we the people because that is what we’re founded on. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

OC Students For City Council officially announce campaign

OC Students For City Council officially announced their city council campaigns this evening at the Democratic Women of South Orange County meeting at the San Juan Hills Golf Course. 

The coalition co-founded by San Clemente High School and Saddleback College students Jackson Hinkle, Jake Rybczyk and Perry Meade was created in order to inspire progressive students across the country to run for political office and to change the discourse of Orange County politics. 

Candidates running for city council include Jackson Hinkle and Jake Rybczyk for San Clemente and Mahmoud El-Farra for Rancho Santa Margarita. The organization is still encouraging Orange County students to run for office, whether it be to serve on a city council, city commission or another position that best suits the student. 

The candidates plan to hold their first press conference over the summer and are looking for progressive students to support and join their efforts. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Students lead the political discourse again

In an article titled “The Stupidity with March for Our Lives,” radio host Kevin McCullough expresses his annoyance with young students leading the current political discourse. The piece published by Townhall.com attempts to invalidate the students’ experience during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and aims to discredit all students who are exercising their first amendment right due to the students’ ages and political beliefs.  

“It is not a ‘personal attack’ on these kids to say that they are ‘misinformed, arrogant, and misguided.’ It’s a statement of fact,” McCullough says.

Misinformed? Who is more qualified to speak about school safety than the students who experienced a horrific shooting in an educational environment? These are students who are taught how to research, think critically and review credibility of news sources. Arrogant? These young leaders are brave and courageous for speaking out knowing that people like McCullough will criticize their every word and knowing that by taking a stance on this issue, they are susceptible to harsh criticism and even death threats. Misguided? How and by whom are they being misguided? These activists are working together along with other students across the country to call on Congress to do their job to protect students. It’s McCullough who is misinformed, arrogant and misguided to declare that these brave and powerful students are such things.

“You don’t get to use your victimization (as real as it was) to advocate for an even less safe school for my children,” McCullough says. 

McCullough’s words here are appalling. They are inappropriate and heartless. Yes, the students were victims of a horrific attack, an attack that very well could have been prevented with common-sense gun regulations. It is these youth that are having to worry about whether or not they will come home safely from school each day, and while this notion may seem like an exaggeration, that is the reality of what students are concerned about. 

Today’s young leaders do not simply “have little more than a junior high level of education under their belt.” It is not just a person’s level of education that defines their awareness and credibility to speak on a topic. It is also their experience. McCullough undermines these students’ credibility to speak on the topic, which is concerning given that the students know first hand about the detriment of loosely restricted gun laws. 

The young activists’ qualifications to speak out and lead the nation in a movement are that they are survivors of a mass school shooting, and if McCullough and the lawmakers in Washington had experienced the event that the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had endured, they too would be pushing for more gun regulations and would have been marching proudly on March 24. 

“The political left, driven by a leftist media, and financed by uber-rich and hard-left celebrities are willing to use them, and to continue to use them to advance their socialist utopia ideals,” McCullough says. 

Why the radio host decides to describe the students as manipulated robots is certainly alarming. These students are not fabrications of the entertainment industry. These students are taking action because they experienced a massacre in their own school. They are not taking action to enjoy a “fifteen minutes of fame” type of ordeal, nor are they going on television and radio shows to become popular. These students are taking action because they want to see change in this time when gun violence is heavily present in schools, restaurants, movie theaters and other public places. They are using their voices to make a change because the majority of elected officials in local, state and federal government are not doing their job to keep their constituents safe.

The language he uses to describe how the students acquired money to organize the march and fund the March for Our Lives event on March 14 incorrectly portrayed how the young organizers received donations for the organization. 

From a historical perspective, it is frequently students who lead the political discourse that advances, strengthens and reshapes American values and politics. If we think back to the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, it was students who spoke up and took stance to make a change. Seeing students take action is nothing new; it's history repeating itself once again.

Since elementary school, students are continually reminded that they are the leaders of tomorrow. It seems as though people like McCullough need to wake up and recognize that the leaders of tomorrow are now the leaders of today. 


Saddleback College students organize candidate forum

Saddleback students gathered in the Science and Math lecture hall Tuesday afternoon in an event organized by the Associated Student Government and the Pre-Law Society to engage in dialogue with candidates running in the primary elections. 

With over 200 students and members of the community in attendance, the audience heard candidates running for congress, district attorney, Orange County sheriff and U.S. Senate answers questions about gun regulations, education, immigration, homelessness and income inequality. 

Candidates at the forum included Mike Levin, Doug Applegate, Katie Porter, Dave Min, Hans Keirstead, Derrick Michael Reid, Duke Nguyen, Lenore L. Albert and Suzie Price who represented Tony Rackauckas. According to Saddleback College law professor Emily Quinlan, all local candidates running for congress as well as the incumbents were invited to the forum . 

The event was emceed by members of both the Associated Student Government and the Pre-Law Society and included questions from audience members. Students were also able to interact with candidates after the forum to learn more about their stances as candidates asked the students how they could best serve them. 

“I thought the event was very informative and productive to give a good number of individuals from the new generation an inside look to these candidates’ views and outlooks on what change we want for this country,” said Bret Landen, a student who attended the forum. 

Throughout the event, the audience was continuously encouraged to vote in the primary and general elections. Attendees were able to register to vote at the voter registration booth and were encouraged by the candidates to consider volunteering or interning for their respective campaigns to develop a greater insight of the political process. 

"It is important for students to go to to events like this," said Perry Meade, one of the lead organizers of the event. "Students need to be educated voters and become involved in the political process because they decide the fate of our present and future." 

Students listening to congressional candidate Mike Levin. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Orange County: Not just home to Disneyland and the Real Housewives

Orange County is home to Disneyland, paradisal beaches, the Real Housewives and yes, track homes. But it is also home to several student-founded organizations working to make a positive difference in the community. Here are a few of many student-led groups bringing change to the county and beyond the orange curtain:

Team Zissou Environmental Organization

Founded in San Clemente, Team Zissou Environmental Organization works to instill sustainable changes in the community. This organization has worked with the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) and JUST WATER to reduce the sales of plastic water bottles and provide students at CUSD schools with an environmentally-friendly option with the JUST WATER bottles. There are several chapters of Team Zissou nation-wide and can easily be started at any school. The headquarters also organize events for the public to attend to enhance community involvement. 

Green Ribbon Club

Green Ribbon Club is a non-profit organization founded in San Juan Capistrano that advocates for mental health awareness and advocacy. Chapters can be found in the form of a club at high schools and universities. The clubs focus on educating members and community on what mental health awareness, local and national resources in addition to becoming advocates for mental health by contacting congressional representatives and writing letters in local papers. 

Students of Orange County 4 Change 

Students of Orange County 4 Change is a group led by high school students advocating for gun regulation reform. Formed after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, these high school leaders from across the county work together planning events, speaking at district board meetings and contacting local and congresstional representatives to stop gun violence.

Orange County Immigrant Youth United 

Founded in Santa Ana in 2004, Orange County Immigrant Youth United is a group of undocumented immigrant youth working to create and implement immigrant rights in the community and nation-wide. Serving as a support system for young undocumented immigrants, the organization advocates for policy change to protect these students and to help them achieve a higher education. 

OC Students for City Council

A group organizing a coalition of progressive students across Orange County to run for city council and other elected positions, OC Students for City Council encourages students to take part in the political process. To get involved in the organization as a possible candidate or to be a part of the the volunteer staff, email ocstudents4cc@gmail.com.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

How to be civically engaged as a California student

Finding ways to become civically engaged can seem a bit overwhelming, but it's actually quite simple as a student in California. Here are five ideas to get involved in your community and make a change.

1. Register to vote 

This is the first step in becoming a engaged citizen. Registering to vote can be done manually or online. As a California resident, you have the option to vote online, at the DMV or armed service recruitment centers. While you have to be at least 18 to vote (although there are exceptions in primary elections), 16-year-old Californians can pre-register to vote here.


2. Get involved with a local organization

Find a group that works for something that you are passionate about. Getting involved in an organization is a great way to meet people, network and work towards a common goal. Organizations can be volunteer-based or even paid and can be found in the community or at school.


3. Get to know your local candidates 

With the primary elections around the corner, congressional candidates in your district, city council candidates, sheriffs and district attorneys are up for reelection. It's important to understand candidates positions on issues so that you can elect the person that you feel represents you best. You can get to know these candidates by attending a town hall or visiting their website.


4. Contact to your congressional representative

There are two quick ways to ensure that your congressional representative hears your voice: sending them postcards and calling their office. All content in the letters and phone calls are noted by either the representative or someone working in their office. Informing your representative on your thoughts or concerns is the best way for them to know how to better represent their district.

5. Vote on June 5

The primary elections are on June 5. Whether you vote in person or vote by mail, every vote matters. If you are out of town, be sure sure to cast in your absentee ballot. Vote in the election to let your voice be heard.

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

5 questions with Saddleback College town hall organizer Perry Meade

Saddleback College will be hosting a town hall next week for students to engage in dialogue with candidates running for office in the Orange County area. Associated Student Government President-elect Perry Meade is one of the key organizers and will be emceeing the event. 

What is the candidate forum? 

Saddleback’s Associated Student Government and the Saddleback Pre-Law Society are collaborating together to host a candidate forum on May 1 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. in SM 313. Candidates running for office in the primary elections will be discussing topics such as gun control, education, immigration and economic inequality. 

What will students gain from attending the candidate forum? 

Students will be able to hear from local congressional candidates including Dave Min, Katie Porter and Rocky Chavez to name a few, as well as a candidate for the US Senate and the current District Attorney for Orange County, a candidate running against the current District Attorney and then candidates for Orange County Sheriff. 

What is the goal for the event? 

The goal of the event is for students to become more aware and to hear what these different candidates’ platforms are and to know where they stand on the issues that matter for students, so because we have primaries coming up on June 5 and the general election is coming up in November, it is important that students are aware of where these candidates stand on important issues. 

What inspired the organization of this event? 

We wanted to create this event so that we can start getting the students of Saddleback more civically and politically engaged because it is a very important time for students to be involved in the political process. For far too long, students have had their voices quieted and I think that it is important to empower students and that they are involved in the political process by hearing what these different candidates’ platforms are. We want them to be able to learn more about the county and how they can get involved in the political process. 

Is there anything you would like to say to encourage students to attend the forum? 

I encourage all students to come out. Several professors will be giving extra credit to students who attend. We will also be having another candidate forum in October with the candidates that make it past the primaries.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Orange County students organize march for gun control

Student-run organization SOC4CHANGE led the Southern Orange County branch for the national Rally for Change event at Bill Barber Community Park in Irvine on Friday. 

The Students of Orange County for Change organization, a high school student-led group advocating for stricter gun control policies, coordinated the Rally for Change walk-out on April 20 in commemoration of the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shootings. Over 100 participants attended the march including students, parents and local candidates running for congress, city councils and  education boards calling on the federal government to pass stronger gun control regulations. 

“The purpose of this event is to try and rally and show support for increased gun legislation,” said Jack Hartstein, an organizer of the march. “I hope that the representatives around the country look at what is going on and realize that they have to change their positions or there is a huge group of people that will vote them out of office.” 

About 10 booths were stationed at the park where marchers could register to vote or acquire information about Congressional candidates and regional organizations promoting stronger gun control regulations such as Moms Demand Action, the Brady Campaign and WAVE. 

Prior to marching, attendees gathered around the stage where Dana Hills student Molly Bergan performed two original songs in light of the Parkland shooting and life in Orange County. Guest speakers followed the musical act discussing the importance of the student voice, voting and resilience. 

“You can do something about it,” said Brady Campaign Orange County chapter President Charles Blek. “It’s so different now and you’re so electric and you’re so alive and we are very confident that you’ll make the change and you’ll protect yourselves, because quite frankly, people who look like me have done a really lousy job of doing that.”

The marchers carried signs advocating for stricter gun control, safety and peace as they walked on the sidewalks lining the park and the Irvine Civic Center as cars honked in support of the movement. 

“I thought the event was really powerful and really embodies the student movement,” said Eva Stanton, a participant from San Juan Hills High School. “The little bit we can do speaks wonders and as long as we can get people to understand where we come from, in that we are all essentially the same, then we can make effective change.” 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

5 questions with Team Zissou Environmental Organization Founder Jackson Hinkle

High school student Jackson Hinkle is the founder of Team Zissou Environmental Organization, a  group lead by youth advocating for sustainable policies. The organization coordinates events and projects, inspiring youth to make a change in their community.

What is the Team Zissou Environmental Organization? 

Team Zissou is a youth-led environmental organization with eight chapters across the United States. We focus on mobilizing kids to do environmental volunteer work going out into nature, like environmental excursions as well as environmental activism and education. Those are the big things. 

What inspired you to create this organization? 

There are two big things that inspired me. One is seeing the plastic pollution in our oceans and realizing that I needed to take a stand against that, and like I had organized this club and there was a bunch of kids that wanted to be involved with it, but there was no real direction. I felt like it would be unwise to have that many kids and not do something bold like that. Getting plastics out of our schools, communities, etc. My good friend Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is suing the federal government right now over climate change and fossils fuels and things of that nature. His story really inspired me, and I thought 'wow I need to do things like that.'”

What are some things that Team Zissou has done in the local area? 

We have lead countless volunteer events like gardening days, beach clean-ups, habitat restorations and providing kids with hundreds of hours of volunteer opportunities. We have lead environmental education events around the Dakota Access Pipeline, climate change, plastic pollution and these sorts of things. Probably our two biggest things are that we got plastic water bottles out of the 60 plus schools in the Capistrano Unified School District. We were part of an interscholastic campaign that got solar panels on six CUSD high school campuses as well as the school district offices. We also have gotten kids to participate in a bunch of creative direction action against the various ways in which Southern California Edison is attempting to store nuclear waste at San Onofre. 

What are some upcoming projects or events? 

I think a really cool thing we’re doing is for Earth Day. We are going to be planting 30 trees at San Clemente High School with our San Clemente High School chapter. 

How can students get involved with Team Zissou? 

Students can get involved with Team Zissou by following us on Instagram. That’s one of our means of communication or by reaching out to us on email. It’s teamzissousc@gmail.com. Starting a Team Zissou chapter at your own school is really the best way to get involved. We help facilitate those chapters and get them started, but there are so many different things you can do with Team Zissou. All of our events are open to the community and are open to everyone. If you follow us on Instagram you can check out our future events and get involved through that.