Local students headed to Women’s March in D.C. following essay contest

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Twelve impressive middle school students from Caliber Schools in Richmond and Vallejo earned the opportunity to attend the Women’s March in Washington D.C. on Saturday after taking part in an essay contest.

Thanks to philanthropic donations, the students along with eight staff members from Beta Academy in Richmond and Caliber Schools’ ChangeMakers Academy in Vallejo are headed to the Women’s March, a national grassroots effort bringing hundreds of thousands of people together in D.C. to demand attention to women’s rights.

“These students now have the chance to experience activism and community organizing first-hand during a pivotal moment in our nation’s history at our nation’s capital,” according to Caliber Schools officials.

While the kids earned the East Coast trip by writing solid essays, the contest’s true purpose was to allow students to express themselves amid a divisive political climate that has left many locals in fear of a Donald Trump presidency.

They were asked why women’s rights and the Women’s March were important to them, and also what they saw as social challenges at their school and how they would go about solving them.

Melissa Flores, a student at Caliber Beta Academy, wrote powerfully about her fear that Trump may install immigration policies that separate families.

“I know of families who have gone through this separation process and can personally say that these families have been negatively affected,” Flores said.

And that ties right into women’s rights, which are ever more important as they face obstacles under the new administration, 7th-grader Alicia Garza wrote in her essay.

“I want to be a positive influence to this school, and I want to influence every single Caliber student to stand up and make a change,” Garza said. “Little things like telling other students about the importance of treating women fairly, standing up against abuse, and other important topics can make people think about women’s rights.”

Monzerrat Ledesma said she believes that being a positive force for change can be infectious.

“I know a little girl named Jescenia, she looks up to me,” Ledesma said. “If she sees me do a positive change, or sees me make a good decision, she will want to do the same.”

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