A guest cross-post by Alma Renteria and our sisters at Lacomadre.org
Gema Quetzal, a student leader from Oakland, is competing for a seat on the State Board of Education as their Student Director. Gema is scheduled to speak in Sacramento today and give a speech in front of her peers and a panel. She is one of 12 students from across California seeking to serve as the student voice on the state board. Following the speeches, six students will be selected to move on to a question and answer portion, with the final decision being left up to Governor Jerry Brown.
Gema is an 11th grader at Life Academy, and currently serves as the Student Director to the Oakland Unified School District Board of Education. Gema is both a passionate leader and fierce advocate for her community. In an Oakland Unified School District press release, Gema said, “I want to do this to bring a voice to the people of Oakland. I want to speak for the community.” She acknowledges that Oakland has garnered a negative reputation over the years and wants to do her part to highlight the great things happening in the city in order to change the narrative around her beautiful community.
One of the issues most important to Gema is immigration. As reported by Oakland Unified, Gema’s closest friends are undocumented and she is the child of immigrant parents. She acknowledges the fear many of her classmates face on a daily basis and sees the need to ensure all students in the state feel safe and are able to focus on their education. “Many young people are frightened to go to school because they feel they are in danger from ICE,” she says, “They’re staying home instead of thinking of their education.” As a strong advocate for education and social justice, Gema has organized her peers in student-led marches for immigrant rights, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
At such a young age, Gema has a history of civic participation worthy of respect. We wish Gema the best and want to let her know how proud we are that such a fearless Latina leader is representing Oakland. If chosen, Gema’s passion and commitment will serve as an asset and give her the opportunity to make a noticeable impact at the state level. Regardless of what happens, we know Gema will continue to be a phenomenal leader and champion for her community.