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Latinx Stories

Inspiring Students to Support Their Communities

Justin Funez smiles while showing off his uchicago shirt

Latino Heritage Month

Observed annually from September 15 to October 15, Latino Heritage Month is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of Latino Americans. This Latino Heritage Month, we’re elevating the voices of Latino leaders advocating for safer communities.

Marco Vargas inspired me to join the gun violence prevention movement. He created the first ever Students Demand Action summer program to teach students from a local high school to plan events and propose solutions for reducing gun violence in the community. Once I heard he was a student working to bring change to his community, I knew I wanted to do the same. Since that first summer program, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Marco and I have learned a lot from him—as a friend and activist. 

And now I get to lead these very same summer programs. As the Volunteer Leader for South Central Los Angeles Students Demand Action, I’ve been able to teach other high school students in my community about gun violence prevention and how to advocate for gun sense in our neighborhoods. It’s been an incredible experience.

We don’t talk enough about gun violence.

Gun violence in the Latino community has been very normalized—to the point where it’s ignored and thought of as just a part of life. So our community isn’t having the conversations it needs to. But we’re facing gun violence every single day. Kids growing up in our neighborhoods are being told to just deal with it, but no kid should have to worry about gun violence on a daily basis. 

We need bilingual programs. 

Latino voices aren’t always uplifted within the gun violence prevention movement. But we can increase engagement by hosting more bilingual programs. Many victims of gun violence in our community aren’t fluent English speakers. By hosting more events that make them feel welcomed and encouraged, we can recruit more volunteers willing to join us—especially in cities with growing Latino populations.

Hope for the future. 

Our movement is growing and I’m excited for the upcoming elections in November. I think people are really going to turn out the vote this year and I hope this brings the change we need for gun violence prevention. And I think it will bring more people to Students Demand Action too—I’m hoping for more summer programs so we can inspire high school students to bring change directly to their communities.

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