Editor’s note: In Superintendent Michael Matsuda’s Anaheim Union High School District, students research, produce, present, and edit video talks in a TED Talk format. The teenagers choose the problems and the solutions to highlight. Topics have varied from sexual assault to the importance of the census to climate disruption.
Anika Nguyenkhoa realized her own ability to make change on the Talk stage. “Speaking to an audience beyond the classroom empowers young adults,” she observed. Chelsea Nguyen, a 9th grader at Cypress High School, agreed. After her talk, she “wanted to create change in the world, to speak out, to create awareness in other people, to fix something.”
Students add that the video platform gives them opportunities to develop as citizens and leaders. “I think when students have that voice we can be better, active citizens in democracy,” said Viren Mehta, a 9th grader at Oxford Academy. “And we know how to talk about issues that affect all of us.”
Video Excerpt from Anika’s Talk
Being a first generation Vietnamese-American, my life exists as a tree, with Vietnamese roots grown in American soil: eating spaghetti with chopsticks, translating parent-teacher conferences from English to Vietnamese, and celebrating Thanksgiving with a big bowl of pho. My Vietnamese and American sides co-exist. Like many others, I grew up listening to the stories of my family as they came to America.
In Communist Vietnam, my parents’ lives were invisible. They came to America where their lives mattered, where their lives had meaning, and their lives were counted.
Every 10 years, our government conducts a census with the sole purpose of counting our country’s population, counting all people in all places. Many community institutions, such as hospitals, libraries, and schools, depend on the accuracy of the census as it allows us to receive enough funding to function. As the number of immigrants grow in our communities, the lack of participation has led to an undercount.
The census determines how more than $800 billion in federal resources are spent and distributed every year for the next 10 years. And most importantly, our population determines how much representation our state gets in our government. Filling out the census enforces the fact that the immigrants who had suffered and struggled to establish a home in a nonnative country belong. Filling out the census provides students like me with the right materials and needed funding to ensure a proper education and promising future. Filling out the census recognizes the voices of the underrepresented communities as a whole, not only in our various school districts but throughout Orange County.
As a daughter of immigrants, I encourage you to participate in the upcoming 2020 census. Not only does it give the chance for students like me to live out the American dream my parents had hoped for, but it also brings light to the fact that Vietnamese-American communities and all other immigrants deserve to be counted.
A version of this article appeared in the March 04, 2020 edition of Education Week as Student Empowerment in Action: Student Voice in Anaheim