As a first-generation immigrant and young person of color, I constantly ask myself this question: “What does it mean to be an American?”
Watching Black lives lost at the hands of unchecked police brutality, countless deaths from COVID-19 due to unmitigated failures in leadership, and the collapse of our severely fractured welfare state, I feel powerless. I struggle to reconcile a vision of America as the leader of progress and radical change with the reality that our existing power structures are built upon the exploitation of the most vulnerable, marginalized groups in our community.
Despite the turbulence of the past several months, one thing has remained constant: the voices of young people fighting to rewrite the rules of our society. We have demonstrated our power to mobilize movements and advocate for lasting structural reforms by protesting with our communities and prescribing solutions for change in 10 Ideas.
Writing for 10 Ideas was my first exposure to the realm of policy research and advocacy. As pre-health students interested in health care policy in Roosevelt Network @ UTD, my team wanted to investigate the hidden consequences of Texas’s resistance to Medicaid expansion. When we came across the history of overmedication of children in the foster care system, we immediately jumped into action and developed a policy solution that would integrate electronic health records with children’s health passports to reduce misprescription and overprescription of powerful psychotropic drugs to children in foster care. To accomplish our vision, Priya Agarwal, our team leader, collaborated with State Senator Nathan Johnson to introduce Senate Bill 1211 to the Texas legislature. I continued our work into the next year by establishing Foster Connect, a first-of-its-kind undergraduate student organization that helps serve the needs of the North Texas foster care community through volunteering, fundraising, and mentorship.
Inspired by the positive outcomes of our work with social workers, legislators, and other stakeholders, I wanted to guide undergraduate teams at other Roosevelt Network chapters through the process of problem identification and resolution, coalition-building, and advocacy as the network’s health care policy coordinator. In conversations with fellow young advocates, I saw creative solutions to health care disparities and the nascent stages of our generation’s progressive leadership.
In fighting for radical change, we continue to envision America as a possible beacon of hope. Though we live under an administration that does not protect the fundamental human rights of LGBTQ+ people, asylum seekers, immigrants, women, and more, young people around the country refuse to accept this as the status quo. I urge you to read through 10 Ideas and think of ways you could organize and push for long-term change in your community.
When I ask myself what it means to be an American, I find my answers right here, in the transformative ideas of young people, in the 2020 10 Ideas.