Updated: Apr 21
As a first-generation Latinx, I am sure that many can relate to our parents telling us, "Cuando seas grande, tienes que ser un abogado o un doctor para ser exitoso" (when you are older, you need to be a doctor or a lawyer to be successful.) Many of our parents/relatives come to this country in search of better opportunities; little do they know that the American Dream is not as easy as they imagined.
As first-generation students, we face many obstacles. From an early age, we start working without even knowing it – translating documents for our parents, interpreting for appointments, etc. Growing up, I thought I needed to do this because I was fortunate enough to know two languages, but this is a real job that people get paid to do! As first-generation children, we feel a responsibility to support our family as soon as possible, feeling unable to take advantage of opportunities others might have. We don't do this because we aren't interested, but because we feel unable to pursue those opportunities.
When I was applying for college, I remember my single mother telling me that after I graduated high school, I needed to help out. My school counselor had to sit with her and tell her the importance of going to college. And so, there I go moving cross country to an unknown place that offered me a great financial aid package. I was thousands of miles from home, having to work while being a full-time student, and every summer, as everyone else was engaged in internships to get experiences in their areas of study, I took the first job I found to be able to help out with tuition. That is how I ended up working ridiculous hours in packing houses.
CATA's Youth Food Justice Internship Program serves as a way to inspire and prepare our interns for what's out there. Having an internship this early in their educational careers will prepare them for the world, as cliché as it may sound. CATA's Food Justice Program is unique in the way that we are integrating new programming to connect gaps. For example, our internship program not only brings an opportunity to low-income youth to learn about growing food and have their first job experience, but they also have the opportunity to learn about food workers in their community.
Interns can hear first-hand what working in the fields is like, interact with our adult food growers/volunteers, engage in local work and advocacy work that CATA is involved in, and share their story through our Radio Station inspiring other youth in the community.
On March 15, we started our 2022 Youth Food Justice Program with four students. It's been five weeks since we started the program, and we have gone over so much material that it is unbelievable.
So far, students have explored conversations on child labor, the food chain, and consumerism, among others. We have not spent as much time in the garden as anticipated because of the weather. Every week at the end of the program, we do an evaluation to gather feedback from the youth to make sure they have a voice in this program. Many of them, if not all, have shared that they prefer to do work outdoors, so we hope that we can work around the weather in the upcoming weeks.
The program is scheduled for 20 weeks, and in June, students will be getting a month's break to make sure they are not distracted from school as they end their school year. The students will then return in July, engage more with the community, and lead our Market Days!
If you would like to learn more about our Food Justice Internship program and the new interns, please visit www.cata-farmworkers.org/foodjusticeinternshipprogram.