Students Fight for Racial Justice

Lucia Zettler, Staff Reporter

The U.S. has made a lot of progress politically and socially to tackle big problems like racial injustice, homelessness, and wage gaps over the years, but our country still has a long way to go. One way to make a difference is to focus on the small things, such as what you can do in your community. As teens it may seem like there isn’t much that we can do, but junior Hollis Beddingfield has stepped up to the challenge. He has created the Teen Equality Council, or the TEC for short, which is dedicated to tackling these issues and amplifying teen voices in Salida.

“I thought it would be important for youth voices to have an avenue to talk with adults and express how they feel about situations that affect everybody,” Beddingfield said.

The group inspires teenagers to play an active role in our community by attending press conferences with various groups in Salida such as the Chaffee County Equality Coalition. They also attend city council meetings to add the youth voice to them.

“I kinda wanted to get involved in something more active,” A member of the TEC, junior Ethan Nejame said.

He regularly posts on his Instagram story to raise awareness, but he felt like the Teen Equality Council could be another outlet to raise awareness and get more involved. He hopes that the TEC will work on changing some policies in our town while shedding light on some things that might need changing, such as racial and sexual injustice, and the flaws in the school system where some kids aren’t getting what they need.

“We want to have public discussions about what we see and what we need to be doing to improve that as teens,” Beddingfield said.

The TEC wants to help bring light to the wage gaps, income inequality, and housing inequality in Salida, as well as work on increasing social programs to help less fortunate people in our community. They also want to shed light on racial inequality in our town and how that translates into the school.

“We can make change from within if a lot of people are on the same page,” Beddingfield said.

TEC is working to address the student resource officers in our school and determine whether or not we need them. Other than protection, they want to question if student resource officers are a productive way to keep the school safe. The Chaffee County Equity Coalition is suggesting that it might be better for schools to replace the officers with counselors to support teen’s mental health.

The Teen Equality Council is currently in the process of deciding how to approach these issues and have only had one meeting due to COVID, but forming a group is a great first step at improving our community.