“We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our children” is a saying that many have heard but few consider. Except that is, for 17-year old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. The Colorado climate activist is working to ensure he and his generation have a planet to pass along. Martinez is an indigenous/Azetc and Mexican American teen who has been advocating for environmental protections through music and action in front of audiences like the UN General Assembly since childhood. Last year he and 20 other young people filed a historical lawsuit against the federal government arguing that the extraction of fossil fuels violates citizens’ right to clean air and environments. In a solid victory, the Federal judge ruled in the suits favor. Taking the lessons he’s learned, Martinez wrote and released the bestselling book, “We Rise”, a “grassroots toolkit” for understanding the impact of climate change and how to create a “solution oriented movement.” Martinez released his first album, Born Free, this summer and provides social commentary on the world he’s growing up in. Above all else, he’s adamant that young people have agency to shape their future.
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Angel Fransisco Magaña
Often times its the every day man that can change the course of many lives. By all accounts Angel Magaña is a game changer. You see the 19-year-old Mexican-American looks to forge a path where few Latino men have a presence – teaching in public schools. Although the Latino student population is the fastest growing in the country only 9 percent of public school teachers are Latino and about 2 percent are Latino men. Magaña, hopes to change that. He is now studying elementary education at the University of Colorado Denver and is enrolled in the school’s NxtGEN Teacher Residency program, Magaña is one of only three men in the program. Why teach public school? Magaña sums it up best on his GoFundMe page, where he states, “I am a young man that prides myself on becoming the person that I never had in school. All of my life I saw how not having someone that shares the same culture as you in the classroom can affect a child of color’s success. I believe that the individuals teaching others the skills that students will need the rest of their life should also understand and be sensitive to other cultures.”
“Going green” means more than just recycling to Michael Caballero. The Fed Ex systems engineer from Miami, Florida is doing his part for the environment as well as his community. He founded the company Earthware Inc., which produces biodegradable cutlery (think potatoes and sugarcane) to reduce peoples’ carbon footprints. The natural materials are even locally sourced to ensure the company keeps its carbon footprint low. The company plans to hire those most at risk to manufacture their products including military vets and formerly incarcerated citizens. The University of Miami alumni also keeps busy (among other pursuits) with SmartMiami, a program he co-founded to connect policymakers and community leaders allowing them to jointly create sustainable and equitable infrastructure for all of Miami’s residents. Photo by Earthware Inc.
These days there’s an app for almost anything. Faith Florez decided there should be one for the hardest working people she knew: farm workers. Hailing from a farm labor family, Florez knew workers needed protection from things like heat stroke. The third generation Mexican American from California’s Central Valley, dreamed up Calor. The app marries an old industry (farm work) with new tools (wearable tech) to help people like her abuelos who toiled in the fields. In 2016 she pitched her idea, which would alert workers of dangerous temperatures, to a contest at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering. Calor became a reality after two years of Florez working with a coding team to ensure Calor not only provides warnings but also resources about workers rights and how to report unsafe conditions. Florez has since launched the Latina Legacy Foundation to harness the power of technology to “solve equity and social justice issues” in Latino communities. Currently, the 18 year old AP Scholar is a freshman at USC, and a HerLead Fellow, which helped her score the money and time needed to build out her idea. Florez is well on her way to leaving a new legacy. Photo from Latina Legacy Foundation website