I’ve seen people that have been to prison or have been in jail and they come out, turn their life around but they can’t find jobs. They can’t get financial aid for school because they have a felony, so they can’t get an education. I don’t think it’s fair, especially for minor things which is what Prop 47 will turn around.
On November 4th, Californians will cast their votes on Proposition 47. The prop, also called The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, would reclassify six non-violent crimes currently charged as felonies — including drug possession and shoplifting — as misdemeanors. We’Ced Youth Media and The kNOw Youth Media asked teenagers in Merced and in Fresno, Calfornia: When is incarceration a just punishment? And how should society deal with non-violent offenses and petty crimes?
Aceves says she never thought about her Hispanic identity or the fact that there are relatively few Hispanics in science until recently, when she perused the names and faces of others in her program. “There was no one that looked like me,” she remembers. Indeed, according to the National Science Foundation, Hispanics account for only 10 percent of all STEM-related degrees. Census data from 2011 show Hispanics make up only 11 percent of the STEM workforce. The number of Latinas within these groups is even smaller. It’s something Aceves is hoping to change.
Escobedo was in middle school when his family settled in the mostly agricultural town of Atwater, located 8 miles north of Merced up Highway 99, six years ago. His father landed a job that offered better benefits and a better salary, he explains, allowing his mom to remain at home and focus on helping Escobedo and his younger sister with their studies. The effort paid off. When it came time to apply for college, Escobedo received acceptance letters from three UC schools – Davis, Irvine and Merced. He chose the latter, he says, for a variety of reasons, including the school’s smaller size and its proximity to a community he was just then beginning to discover.
The long-term goal of the organizing, added Abril, is less about getting people to perform a one-time act of voting than it is about igniting a lifelong commitment to civic engagement. Gallardo agreed: “Beyond just getting folks to go out and vote on November 4th we want to really make it part of our culture here in Merced.”