LAYC would like to congratulate Santos Amaya Guevara and Harrison Rodriguez on the recognition of their leadership and commitment to public service at the fourth annual Samuel Halperin Lecture and Youth Public Service Award event, cosponsored by the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) and the Institute for Educational Leadership, on March 21st.

Santos Amaya Guevara, this year’s Halperin Youth Award winner, shared her winning essay at the event, which highlighted the difficulties she experienced leaving her home country and family as a teenager to pursue opportunities in the US. After arriving, she faced numerous personal and educational challenges with hope and optimism and soon discovered a passion to improve the lives of immigrants like herself. Santos quickly became involved in her DC community, and in 2014, she co-founded LAYC’s Latino Youth Leadership Council (LYLC). With the help of LAYC’s Community Peace Mobilizer, Juan Pacheco, Santos and her friend Deyssy created a youth summit and various conferences in DC to motivate and support other immigrant youth. She has also recruited other young people to participate in an LYLC storytelling project aimed at changing negative perspectives about undocumented youth.

Santos will start college this fall, working toward her dream of attending law school, while she continues working to create inclusive communities that celebrate diversity and value all voices. Santos observes, “I believe that youth voice matters, and we can’t give up no matter what the situation. If we fail, we must stand up again…and continue fighting for our dreams.” Click here to see a short video of Santos on the AYPF blog.

Harrison Rodriguez was selected as a Halperin Youth Award runner up based on his essay submission, which describes a challenging and abusive upbringing in DC that led him to run away from home and move to Miami in 2011. While homeless in Miami, Harrison faced multiple challenges, some related to his undocumented status. Despite many obstacles, he maintained a strong work ethic and took personal initiative to develop sales and marketing skills. In 2012, Harrison returned to DC to reconnect with friends, many of whom are members of the skateboarding community; they provide invaluable support and hope to one another amidst adversity. Harrison is now a Skateboarding Ambassador, mentoring youth and promoting inclusion among community members. He collaborates with the Kennedy Center to organize and support events such as the DC Funk parade and the Center’s annual Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music, and Media festival and organizes resources to hold an annual Halloween skateboarding contest. In the second year of the contest, Muriel Bowser recognized Harrison for all of his volunteer work and allocated funds for current and future events.

Since completing his GED this past December, Harrison plans to study business management in college, with a minor in public relations. He hopes to one day run a manufacturing warehouse to provide stable employment and support educational aspirations for members of the DC skateboarding community, especially those facing homelessness. He reflects, “Skateboarding is the glue that has held my community and my life together. [It] is the outlet through which all of my goals can be made possible.”

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