Despite state restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19, the youth and young adult councils of the San Benito chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) found workarounds in their continued efforts to be involved in their community.
With many of its events canceled or held virtually in 2020, the two councils, which support the adult council in many of its events, shifted focus to being the bridge between the most vulnerable populations and COVID-19 resources. The Young Adults Council is made up of college-age members, while the Youth Council is composed of high school students.
“Having been here in the county for so long, for over 30 years, we’re really proud of being part of the community and having the trust of the community,” said Ana De Castro, secretary of the LULAC Young Adults Council. “We want to continue that and we knew that it was very important for us to stay in communication with our community and to be a resource to them.”
She continued, “So if we helped two families, three families, we’re proud to have helped them.”
The biggest difference in 2020 compared to other years, Castro said, was that COVID-19 forced LULAC to collect and disseminate information more quickly through the Farmworker Task Force, created by the adult council.
Members of the task force met virtually with community organizations and agencies such as the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office, nurses with the OptumServe testing facility in Hollister and Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital to learn how to set appointments for COVID-19 testing, what symptoms merit going to the hospital, and the role of the sheriff’s department in enforcing state guidelines.
“There is that barrier, it could be language, it could be accessibility to drive somewhere, or it could have also been the hours they were working,” De Castro said about the farmworker community. “They are our essential workers that were not really recognized, so we were trying our best to make sure that they had this information.”
Though they weren’t visible in the community, the different LULAC councils were still active.
“We really did work on several things, but you don’t notice it since we never met in person,” De Castro said. “It was all through phone calls, emails. It was very much virtual work.”
Not everything was virtual, though. De Castro said one of LULAC’s proudest events in 2020 was putting together a small graduation for its youth members.
“I think that was one of our best accomplishments because we wanted to make sure that they were recognized and that they knew we were really proud of them for graduating high school,” De Castro said. “Because a lot of them were the first one in their family who graduated high school.”
LULAC also held a food drive for farmworkers. De Castro said she felt the event sparked others to do the same, including Assemblyman Robert Rivas and state Senator Anna Caballero.
“We were glad that we planted a little seed and that everyone was using it,” De Castro said.
Diana Lopez, a sophomore at San Benito High School and president of the LULAC Youth Council, said the youth were especially active during the election season campaigning for various candidates. Campaigning included making calls, taking to the streets with signs and leaving flyers at houses.
Though members were encouraged to be involved throughout the year, participation varied because of health concerns, said Lopez, a former BenitoLink reporter intern. Other events included making cards for the elderly, Christmas gift wrapping and helping with Wreaths Across America.
“I think that we are trying our best right now and I just hope that next year will be a better year,” Lopez said.
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