LatinxEd’s ‘20 Under 20’ youth leadership initiative now accepting applicants

Posted 11/10/21

Chatham County’s Latinx students may now apply to form part of LatinxEd’s fourth “20 Under 20” youth leadership cohort by Nov. 29.

First launched in 2018, “20 under 20” is a yearly …

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LatinxEd’s ‘20 Under 20’ youth leadership initiative now accepting applicants

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Chatham County’s Latinx students may now apply to form part of LatinxEd’s fourth “20 Under 20” youth leadership cohort by Nov. 29.

First launched in 2018, “20 under 20” is a yearly initiative that identifies and works to cultivate 20 young Latinx leaders and advocates across the state.

Managed by a Chapel Hill-based education nonprofit, LatinxEd, it’s the only competition in North Carolina designed to elevate Latinx youth leaders. LatinxEd provides multi-year educational support to and seeks to expand educational opportunities for North Carolina’s Hispanic students and immigrant families.

“A lack of representation of Latinx youth leadership has prevented strategic planning processes from being truly representative of the changing face of this state, especially when planning local and state investments and policy-making,” the nonprofit wrote about the initiative on its website. “To remedy this, we seek to build a trusted network of Latinx youth leaders who are ready to take the next step in their leadership journey and join LatinxEd in advocating on behalf of the Latinx community.”

Eligible applicants include Hispanic/Latinx students or graduates who reside in North Carolina, though U.S. citizenship isn’t required. Those born after Dec. 31, 2001, may apply. Applicants don’t need to meet any academic or GPA requirements.

According to LatinxEd’s 20 Under 20 program assistant, Ian Hammett, LatinxEd usually receives between 70 to 80 applications for the 20 Under 20 program each year.

Judges will pick finalists based on three main criteria: vision, voice and valor.

Ideal applicants understand the barriers Latinx immigrant families face within North Carolina’s education system and have personally navigated them. They also strive to tell their own stories and to expand opportunity for the state’s Hispanic community through education.

“20 Under 20 Leaders are pursuing education as a channel for social mobility and change,” Hammett told the News + Record. “They are activists, storytellers, and leaders within our community. Many leaders from our previous cohort are either graduating from high school and matriculating into college or graduating from college!”

Applicants don’t need to know fluent Spanish, according to the competition’s webpage. To apply, go to bit.ly/3C0NkyJ. To nominate a student or a graduate, visit bit.ly/3khUHfl.

According to Hammett, the application asks students to answer three questions, which applicants may do by writing essays or creating videos.

“These core questions serve as a guide to help the applicant reflect the ways they have used and aspire to use their voice, vision and valor through their leadership and in their communities,” he said. “ ... Our team is eager to learn more about students’ educational journey and their experiences navigating school in North Carolina. We want to learn about who or what motivates them and how they are trying to advance themselves and their community via education.”

The application period first opened last week. Youth who apply by Nov. 20 will receive priority consideration, but the final deadline is Nov. 29. Judges will then pick a group of semi-finalists, who they’ll invite to submit videos by Dec. 10.

“For students who make it to the semi-finalist round, these videos are an opportunity for students to bring their story to life via their voice,” Hammett said. “As storytelling is a key component of being in 20 Under 20, it is critical to be able to hear and watch students use their voice to learn more about their story and lived experiences.”

By Dec. 17, judges will have chosen all 20 qualifying leaders, who will be notified by Jan. 5.

Those chosen will receive a mentor with whom they’ll engage in bi-weekly calls; they’ll also attend virtual monthly workshops to develop their storytelling and leadership abilities during the spring of 2022, and by the end of the semester, they’ll have co-created a 2- to 3-minute video about their visions for promoting Latinx student success in North Carolina.

In all four years, only two Latinx students from Chatham County have been chosen as 20 Under 20 leaders: Jordan-Matthews High School graduates David Gonzalez Hernandez, who now attends UNC-Greensboro, and Jacquelinne Marroquin Tobar, now a first year at Wake Forest University.

Both Siler City residents formed part of last year’s cohort.

The son of immigrants from Guatemala and El Salvador, Gonzalez Hernandez formed part of the Hispanic Liaison’s youth group, Orgullo Latinx Pride, with which he volunteered at various community events and initiatives.

Marroquin Tobar immigrated to Siler City from Guatemala with her family when she was 14. Thereafter, she entered J-M, enrolled in ESL classes to learn English and created the school’s first Water Bottle Recycling Project, a campaign intended to teach students about the importance of recycling and change their habits.

“It’s such an honor,” Marroquin Tobar told the News + Record last year. “ … They’re doing so much that I even feel like, ‘Were they right when they told me?’ I was like, ‘They are doing so much. They are activists; they have projects in the community; they are doing this and that and that’ — Am I in the right place?’ But they were like, ‘Yes, you are. You’re amazing.’”

She added: “The LatinxEd ‘20 Under 20’ is just trying to show the world what the Latinx students are doing in North Carolina ... that we are trying to give back. It’s a great way to show the world, to show North Carolina, that we are doing something.”

For more information or application assistance, email Hammett at ian@latinxed.org or visit LatinxEd’s website.

“We want to encourage all Latinx students to apply as we aim to build a trusted network of Latinx youth leaders who want to join LatinxEd in advocating on behalf of the Latinx community,” Hammett said. “If eligible students are unsure whether they consider themselves a leader or storyteller, it is important to know that if you are willing to challenge yourself, we will strongly consider your application ... Whether or not you’ve been able to play formal or informal roles as leaders, your voice matters, and we want to hear what you have to say.”

Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at victoria@chathamnr.com.

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