In preparation for our 3rd annual Student Voice Summit, Mindful Practices had an opportunity to chat with Melivia Mujica, a first generation college student, currently a senior at Texas A&M Kingsville. Melivia is no stranger to using her voice as a young person to enact change in her community.
As a high schooler, Melivia was a dedicated student, but even so, she still felt like she didn’t quite belong. This experience in itself isn’t uncommon for middle and high school students, but what Melivia did in response shows us the resilience and power that young people can have when they speak up.
Melivia and a small group of peers who also felt uncomfortable at school began meeting in a teacher’s classroom during their lunch to create “Enrichment Club.” Originally, Melivia reports that she and a lot of the other students in Enrichment Club were coming from an extreme place of angst, but instead of staying in a place of commiseration, they began brainstorming ways to resolve the issues they were angry about.
One of their first projects was to organize a ‘Know Your Rights’ seminar and bring in immigration advocates and lawyers from RAICES to present to all families and students about their rights and how to keep safe.
From the success of this Know Your Rights seminar, they realized that they did have a voice, student issues did matter, and that they could make a real difference in their community. This inspired them to keep tackling difficult issues they noticed, and eventually resulted in the creation of The Care Zone.
“When students want to build awareness of an issue, it starts with just bringing it up and talking about it.”
Melivia and her peers recognized that so many of their classmates were experiencing mental health challenges; everything ranging from domestic abuse and unhealthy relationships, to anxiety and depression.
When they looked into resources that they could share with their classmates, they realized that the Southside of San Antonio, where their school was located, had very few mental health facilities available, and the few that were there either didn’t offer bilingual services, or didn’t accept medicaid/medicare. The closest accessible facility to their school was about two hours away by bus.
Instead of accepting this, the group reached out to local council members and began major fundraising efforts to bring mental health services to the heart of the South side. They attended school board meetings regularly to make their case. Their efforts resulted in South San ISD and six community agencies in San Antonio funding The Care Zone–a space for South San ISD students and their families to access mental health resources like counseling, a food pantry, and warm clothes.
When we asked Melivia what advice she would give to current high schoolers who recognize issues in their communities that they want to address she said:
“A big thing I have told other schools and students is finding people who–you don’t necessarily have to have the same things in common with them–but at the principle of it, you care about the same issue. When students want to build awareness of an issue, it starts with just bringing it up and talking about it. Having these conversations is very important. The Care Zone all started with lunch talk–it all started with communication.”
We wondered what Melivia would tell students about why their voices matter and why they should use their voices, and this is what she had to say:
“They just do. I can talk about my accomplishments and all the things I did, but it just started with my opinion mattered, I mattered as a person. What I have to say and what I think matters. I feel like a lot of high schoolers and middle schoolers nowadays don’t realize that. You matter as a person. You matter for what you do. What you say and what you do has an impact.Your voice can make an impact. It’s a ripple, but it’s an effect.”
Melivia and her peers are a powerful reminder of the hope, energy, and beauty that young people can bring to our communities when given a platform. Mindful Practices believes in student voice, and we can’t wait to provide that platform to young people around the country.