JLTC Student Participant Reflects on Washington D.C. Trip

Before I became involved in the Jewish and Latino Teen Coalition (JLTC), I was extremely unaware of all of the different ways I could become a greater part of my communities. If a list were to be created on everything I learned in JLTC, the list would be almost endless. It took me a very long time to realize how distinct and incomparable JLTC really is, but now that I can look back on it, I can’t stop being in awe of the program. I entered the program knowing a considerable amount about my backgrounds and cultures, however all throughout the program I had the privilege of constantly learning how diverse all backgrounds really are. I was very uneducated on the Jewish culture, and in JLTC I was able to experience and admire the culture firsthand.

Expanding my knowledge on other cultures not only taught me a little more about the world, but it helped me become open-minded. It helped me look at situations through a wider lens in which I could consider multiple perspectives. I’d say that being able to share such an experience with other students made it extra special as I quickly grew close to peers with similar interests as me. At the very first meeting, I didn’t think I was going to be able to make friends in the program, but this fear was unquestionably eradicated on our trip to D.C. In the matter of a week, I obtained closer friendships than I have in years. I felt extremely comfortable and excited every time I was around the other members. I learned from them to follow my passions and to appreciate everyone’s opinions even when I don’t completely agree.

Arriving in D.C. left me speechless. I always knew D.C. was a place I wanted to visit, I just never imagined it happening so soon. Surreal is the only word that I can think of to describe the week we spent in D.C. We were surrounded by beautiful scenery with trees and plants growing in every corner. Then beautiful stone buildings with warm marble steps towered over us on every block. I was speechless because all I could think about was history that poured out of such buildings and streets. I still struggle to wrap my head around everything we had the privilege of doing. Being escorted into the White House somehow fulfilled every little kid dream I ever had and for the very first time I can say that I felt proud. My passions and goals strengthened immensely after this program and only assured me that I wouldn’t be happier pursuing anything else. I gained a sense of empowerment after every meeting with the senators and representatives. Having my voice heard taught me how important it is to speak out and fight for what I believe in. This program showed me that I am surrounded by methods to make myself heard whether it is as simple as making an insta post or as difficult as finding an open spot for a meeting in the Senate. It taught me the importance of helping others and never staying silent. I learned to take initiative and become an advocate for myself and for others.

I now know that such an experience is once in a lifetime. Having the ability to take part in an incredible program like the Jewish and Latino Teen Coalition is a privilege to say the least. I learned a lot from the members of Congress, but I learned a lot more from (JLTC volunteers) Shari, Lisa, and Matt. What I experienced in this program is absolutely unforgettable, if it was possible, I’d do it a hundred times over. To say that I am fortunate is not nearly enough, as I gained extreme knowledge, growth, and interest from this experience. I gained amazing friends, mentors, and memories that I will cherish forever. After this program, I committed to always learning, staying informed, and always making a difference.

The Jewish-Latino Teen Coalition is a collaborative effort to build bridges between Southern Arizona’s Jewish and Latino communities, explore shared values, work toward mutual goals, appreciate differences, and cultivate future leaders. Each year the coalition is comprised of a diverse group of students from many high schools and backgrounds that commit to months of education to build knowledge and skills for advocacy and leadership. Students participate in weekly meetings and workshops to foster mutual understanding, respect and civic engagement. In addition, students participate in cultural exchange, team building exercises, community service activities, meetings with community leaders, and political advocacy. 

Each year the program culminates in a Washington DC experience where students engage with National Advocacy Organizations, lobby members of Congress, explore our nation’s Capital, and continue cultural exploration.