Edison High students (from left to right), Nancy Zermeno (17), Erika Banuelos (17) and Kathia Osuna (16). Photo courtesy of The Fresno Bee.

Two months ago, President Trump announced plans to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act. With millions of families frightened about what this meant, three students from Edison High School chose to take action and have their voices heard in Fresno, California.

I had the opportunity to sit down with these students, Erika Banuelos, Kathia Osuna and Nancy Zermeno, and discuss why they chose to take action.

What originally began as two separate walkouts quickly merged into one and spread through Edison’s student body via social media.

NANCY ZERMENO:  “Erika and I had planned separate walkouts, but she got in contact with me as soon as she saw a Twitter post I made…We instantly decided it’s best to work together because it was apparent we both felt the same way towards the cause – passionate and determined.”

The three organizers found that there was no one method of recruiting that worked best. Instead, they used every outlet that they could to gather support. They started taking down student’s names on campus, they polled students on social media to find the best walkout date and got firm commitments from everyone interested in participating. Even with differing opinions throughout the student body, the three stood firm.

ERIKA BANUELOS: You’ll never have everyone’s support 100%, you’ll always have people who believe in different things…When you bring out the facts and know what you’re talking about and lay them straight out on the table, our youth begin to realize “wow this is an issue.”

KATHIA OSUNA: (on the topic of youth involvement in causes) It is important that they develop a passion for leadership and civic engagement as well, otherwise it would be something they’re being forced to do which would defeat the purpose.

With the student body supporting them, the three leaders set a date and had everyone prepared to walk out of their classes. Then, the school administration approached them with an alternative solution.

Seeing how many students supported this cause, the school offered buses to take anyone interested to the opening of The City of Fresno’s Dream Center. Banuelos, Osuna and Zermeno were then given the chance to speak at the opening.

ERIKA BANUELOS: I had no idea FUSD had this planned, I’m happy there’s a place to go if they need immigration help, DACA renewal and citizenship help.

NANCY ZERMENO: I do hope that those who are in need take advantage of this resource which is denied to many, because this was a truly historic moment – the first dream center opened in a K-12 district.

The leadership shown by these students has resonated throughout Edison, and the entire Fresno community. The power demonstrated by these youth leaders was highlighted by their ability to rally students together and be given the opportunity to speak at something as crucial as the Dream center opening.

KATHIA OSUNA: I hope this continues to engage people in similar demonstrations and serves as a reminder that their voices are important and can be heard if they put themselves out there.

Raymart Catacutan (he/him/his)

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