CHICAGO — A group of high school students are teaming up with a local organization to raise awareness about the importance of being counted in the upcoming 2020 Census.
For nearly 120 years, the census has tallied the number of people living in the U.S. every 10 years. This time, political debates have many Latinos wondering if they should fill out the questionnaire at all.
A group of high school students have combined brain power and tech skills to make sure they can convince as many people as possible that they should take part, and be counted. Focused on this mission, students are building an entire campaign around the census called Nosotros Contamos.
"They are creating all sorts of media content. All sorts of interesting media they can take to the streets," Bruce Winston, Director of Summer Programs at Flashpoint Chicago, said.
Flashpoint, After School Matters and the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI) thought the 2020 Census was the perfect project for a group of students looking to make a difference. About 85 signed up, but only 15 were hand-picked. They’ll have a pretty important job in the coming months.
"We here in Chicago are trying to reach 50,000 (young people) to get them to understand what’s at stake, and convey that to their parents," Dr. Juan Andrade Jr., founder and president of USHLI, said.
Once they’ve created videos and pictures driven by a clear message, they will go into Chicago Public Schools to raise awareness about the 2020 Census. A high school senior, Sara Khan said she doesn’t need to speak Spanish to understand the importance of her work, particularly right now.
"We will have $8 billion dollars given across the country to each and every one of us, if we simply fill out the census," Khan said. "What’s mind-blowing is there was a lot of ignorance around the topic, and I didn’t really know that."
Nationwide political debates have led to a lot of confusion for people living undocumented in the U.S., who may be afraid they could be arrested after participating in the 2020 Census.
"I think the big thing was fear. People were scared to fill it out," Khan said. "I hope it makes a difference, even a little bit helps."
Dr. Juan Andrade, who founded the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, is commending their work.
"They are going to empower us as an organization to more effectively reach the community," Andrade said.
The student project has been created in English and Spanish, and is available online at nosotroscontamos.org.