Willard Middle School
Hi my name is Camille Moraven. I am a 14-year-old 8th grader from Berkeley and I attend Willard Middle School. ~ Did you know that almost 20% of people living in Berkeley are living in poverty? What about the fact that 20% of Berkeley’s population are also immigrants?
In our AVID class, we have been working with Generation Citizen this semester around the topic of Berkeley immigrants living in poverty. My classmates and I initially brainstormed a list of struggles that our community faces, which included gun violence, women’s rights, immigration, and homelessness. We had to come to a consensus and later agreed to focus on the issue of immigrants living in poverty.
This issue is important to me for a few different reasons. Even though I am not growing up in poverty as a part of an immigrant family, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t all around me in my community. I think about my friends and classmates, coming to school on an empty stomach without their supplies & unprepared to learn. I think about Berkeley’s significant homeless population, many people lacking the resources needed to get back on their feet. I think about people living in constant fear of hearing that knock on their front door, being forced out of a community that they are very much a part of.
To address the issue of immigrants living in poverty, the first thing that we did as a class was to begin researching the root causes of our issue. What we found was surprising! While our percentage of immigrants is similar to the rest of the country (about 20% for both), the percentage of Berkeley residents living in poverty is 150% higher than the national average. Our research showed that one of the biggest issues that immigrants living in poverty face is the lack of information and resources around navigating our educational systems. Not only are families struggling to afford the basic necessities to ensure the success of their children, but the resources and information available to them are often too difficult to understand.
With the help of our Democracy Coaches, Daisy & Amelia, we are looking into what resources this group of people need to succeed. Furthermore, we are interested in what Berkeley Unified School District already offers in terms of support. We stumbled across the main website and noticed some things right off the bat. The district website is not easy to navigate for people who don’t speak English. Also, it isn’t clear who the main district contact point is for people who need more information. In order to make it easier to navigate, we are drafting a proposal to send to the BUSD communications department requesting a redesign of the “Resources for Immigrant Families” webpage.
Through this process, I have learned that changing a community for the better takes A LOT of work! In my head, Generation Citizen was all about the action – interviewing experts, calling legislators, and organizing events. It quickly became clear that most of the work was going into research – we had to find out how many people in our community were even facing this issue, we had to explore the root causes of the issue, and we had to develop relationships with targets who would be able to enact real change. This was an eye-opening experience for me. Generation Citizen also provided a great opportunity for us to collaborate with people our own age, working towards a goal that we all agreed on and found meaningful. While we may be young, this process has taught me that our voices can be heard if we go about it in the right way. Thank you for presenting me with this award today, and I hope that all of you had experiences similar to my own.