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Amityville Students Get Civic Engagement Experience

Leadership Conference Students thumbnail182349
Tatiana Barrera thumbnail182350
Fatima Mendez Oliva thumbnail182351
Two Amityville Memorial High School students connected with their peers from Long Island as well as state legislative leaders through their participation in the Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute. 

Senior Tatiana Barrera and junior Fatima Mendez Oliva took part in the virtual conference on March 13 and 14. The event is a collaboration between the New York State Assembly and the New York State Education Department’s Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages. It included civic engagement workshops, cultural events, a mock assembly, student recognition and a scholarship presentation. The girls heard from keynote speaker Dolores Huerta, an American labor leader and Civil Rights activist, and attended the Saturday night performance by singer Taína Asili. 

Tatiana and Fatima learned about the different branches of New York State government and how a bill becomes a law. They also heard about legislation currently in front of the Assembly that could impact the Latino community. 

The students were chosen to represent Amityville by the English as a New Language and World Languages Department. Director Mary Stephens said students are chosen each year for this valuable leadership and empowerment opportunity, and she was glad that, despite the pandemic, it continued virtually so Tatiana and Fatima could participate. Before the conference, they took part in three virtual training sessions with BOCES.

Each student was also assigned to a mentor from the Assembly. Tatiana was paired with Michaelle Solages, an assemblywoman from western Nassau County, and Fatima was with Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre, whose district includes Amityville and North Amityville. 

In a mock Assembly session, Tatiana and Fatima were able to discuss and debate issues with students from other high schools. Because some participants are more comfortable with English and others with Spanish, arguments were presented in both languages. Tatiana and Fatima said they enjoyed the experience because it helped with their public speaking skills and showed them the importance of respectful dialogue. Not only did it help build confidence sharing their own opinions, but it gave them an opportunity to listen to and consider other people’s viewpoints and ideas.

“It was a good experience,” Tatiana said. “It helped me develop life skills.”

Fatima added that it brought to life lessons about government from her social studies classes.

Students also took part in an arts experience, showing how they can have a voice through the arts. They were split into smaller groups based on their areas of interest. Tatiana submitted a photography project about an environmental issue, using a picture she took of a big plot of land of trees cleared near her home. Fatima did a drama presentation about her ambitions and aspirations.  

The girls said they learned about the importance of participating in the political process and knowing who represents them at different levels of government. Their voices have power, they said, which they can use to advocate for positive changes. 
Monday, May 17, 2021