In front of over 700 high school students and adults at the University of San Diego on Jan.18, junior Madina Zermeño spoke at World Link’s annual Youth Town Meeting about her club at Bonita Vista High School, Individual Goal Setters Nourishing Inspiration Through Empowerment. Zermeño also spoke on social justice, gender equity and youth power.
“I’ve been wanting to start a service organization to give back to the community. Last year, I was originally going to do it with two organizations called ‘Girl Up’ and ‘World Link.’ I just decided to start my own club, so that way I can incorporate all these ideas about global betterment, youth power, global sustainability [and] giving back to the community,” Zermeño said.
According to the YTM’s Facebook events page, it states that through invitation, annually they bring together high school students from San Diego and Baja Mexico along with more than 20 leading experts in international affairs. This year, the YTM chose moderators to speak on five areas: social, economic, environmental, policy and technology. Students also discussed each topics with experts, who related it to the complexities and challenges of international affairs.
“This year, I heard [World Link] was having a Youth Town Meeting again and I needed to go. I was signed up to be a moderator because they were looking for them in applications. I applied and the new director [Kristina Medina] loved my application, especially because I said I had passion for public speaking and motivational speaking,” Zermeño said.
Currently, Zermeño’s IGNITE program is connected to different organizations including Jacobs Center, Writerz Blok, as well as World Link themselves. Zermeño had already met the World Link’s main coordinator Kristina Medina two years ago, before applying to become a Youth Town moderator last year, Dec. 9.
“I always tell people, you just have to put yourself out there. I did not have any personal connections to these people that I’m connected to. It was all just about me putting myself out there, emailing and calling people,” Zermeño said. “I feel like anyone could do that. When you put yourself [and] your ambitions out there, [organizations] will welcome you with open arms. They will be ready to help you.”
Zermeño was one of the 10 moderators chosen among 1000 applicants to be a Youth Town moderator, according to Zermeño’s mother, Tawny De Alva. As a moderator, Zermeño’s original job was to attend briefing sessions and assist other speakers. However, she was later approached by Medina with the opportunity to advocate at USD for Youth Town.
“I never knew I was going to speak. I was just so amazed and humbled to be given the opportunity. I wanted to do it because I love speaking, empowering my peers and just telling people I am just passionate about making a change,” Zermeño said.
Not only Zermeño, but Sweetwater High School junior and Zermeño’s friend Faduma Mohamed, was also at the YTM to present her thoughts about human rights violations and human sexuality trafficking through spoken word poetry. According to Mohamed, she is planning to participate and have an organization with Zermeño relating to future service projects such as a fellowship she is taking part in until June. Mohamed stated that she will be paired with non profit organizations and be able to lead service projects that the nonprofit will host.
“I have yet to know what those service projects would be, but a complete overview would be a service project that focuses on giving back to the less fortunate through food drives and clothing drives,” Mohamed said.
After the YTM, Zermeño felt that she learned a lot about organization and ways to make sure that everyone’s voices are heard. Now, Zermeño is building upon her leadership skills, taking responsibility, managing the IGNITE social media page and going to youth empowerment events. In the future, she is looking forward to associate with more organizations and hold more discussions and events.
“A couple of kids would come to me and tell me they love IGNITE and the message [it has.] I hope more people can join IGNITE. We’re still growing—I am trying to promote upcoming events, throughout San Diego community events,” Zermeño said.
According to Alva, she has seen Zermeño’s club become empowered as it grew beyond the borders of BVH. Zermeño also stated that IGNITE could help students find ways where the members can find change for issues that bothers them. Their main goal is to have students feel empowered and that they have a voice in the world.
“As a mother, I was proud to see my child speaking in front of 800 high school students and adults. This is history in the making. It is beyond my daughter getting any limelight,” Alva said. “There was a room full of 800 or more young people all ready to tackle current social issues, generate solutions and be change-makers That’s what it’s about. A movement for youth power. It’s about time, and I’m thankful to witness the seeds of this greater movement.”