The youth of Santa Ana is not immune to the struggles of the city. Deportation, criminalization, police brutality and mental illness don’t wait until adulthood but begin in youth.
And the youth’s response: a resistance led by Alba Piedra.
“Systems were put in place to basically be a roadblock to me,” said Piedra, a 19-year-old local advocate and Santa Ana College sophomore. “And I’m not going to allow that. I’m going to keep on thriving.”
As an advocate in the community, Piedra’s desire to help and a sense of empathy towards the roadblocks that Santa Ana youth face led her to put on the 6th Annual Youth in Resistance Conference at non-profit organization KidWorks on Sept. 7.
The conference, which focused on the issues limiting the livelihood of local youth, provided knowledge and a place for open dialogue where attendees were informed and learned how to enact change.
The detail seen in both the content and organization of the conference — which spanned five hours, eight workshops, four crafts, and two meals — is an extensive undertaking for anyone, let alone for Piedra who is also balancing school, her social life and her family life.
Her involvement in local youth advocacy and leadership spaces, like the Youth Network (YN) and Resilience Orange County (ROC), paired with a strong, natural fire for change helped her develop both professionally and personally, to thrive over the last six years.
These spaces “answered a lot of my questions coming from a very traumatic childhood. It allowed me to think for a better future for myself, and knowing these systems and how they impact young people,” Piedra, who is also a Youth Network Facilitator and Youth Organizer for YN, said.
With a safe, open environment in these spaces, stories were told and connections were made on the basis of reliability. But, reliability was also created on the basis that despite individual circumstances or situations, everyone is facing roadblocks.
“I may not have been in the streets. I may not have been gang-affiliated. I may have been a good student, but I was definitely impacted seeing domestic violence, impacted not being able to have secure housing and impacted not being able to have food or clothes,” said Piedra. “Impact doesn’t just look like gang violence or criminalization, it looks other ways.”
Continuing to relay her own experiences and compassion for others facing roadblocks, there is no stopping Piedra. And in her quest to help the youth, she acknowledges her position as one of the youths and how it’s important for her to also pursue self-improvement.
“I started thinking about higher education. I started knowing that I could do more,” Piedra said.
Now, she is a Don.