Meet Kheyla

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California fellow
School:

James Logan High School

Host Organization:

Filipino Advocates for Justice

Year Born:

2002

If I could have one superpower, it would be:

I would want the power of perfect duplication so that no one would go hungry or thirsty because I’d duplicate food and water. I’d also duplicate endangered animals so they couldn’t go extinct. I would also duplicate more trees so there’s more oxygen in the air and hopefully less global warming or harmful fumes in the air.

Why do you think other students and teens should get involved in youth activism? 

Practically, it’s a great alternative to using/abusing substances and participating in gang or non-gang activities/violence. Personally, I find myself actually learning about the world around me and all the hidden systems that the world is made of and secrets that the people in power don’t want you to know. It’s all very relevant and fascinating to be aware of so many things. Also, youth have so much potential to be anything or do anything. They’re also usually the best equipped to make changes. Go to an organization’s meetings, get to know them and just participate in workshops, then after a while you could start helping out in community gardens, phone banking, door knocking , create a workshop, go to panels, marches, and protests. Then start representing an organization by going to capitals and board meetings.

How long have you been thinking about making change or engaging other youth in making change?

I’ve been thinking about making a difference and bringing awareness to youth ever since I was recruited as a youth organizer for a program called Phillipino Youth Coalition (PYC), by the host organization; Filipino Advocates for Justice, as of June 2017. I’ve been an intern for over a year, but I’ve known ever since I was really young that I wanted to do something big and affect many people’s lives for the better. I still remember that my first act of community engagement was participating in our community garden and cleaning up the weeds. It might sound small and no big deal, but it was fascinating because we all had the same goal in mind and we worked together in different sections to accomplish it.

Have there been any particularly important moments that keep you motivated?

There have been countless moments/experiences/teachings that have stuck with me and many fun memories with my organization and community there. It’s the people and experiences that keep me coming back and going everyday.

Do you have any stories to share about that experience?

I have many funny stories, but I want to share my most heartfelt one about my Inter-generational Trauma Workshop, which is still one of my favorite if not most memorable workshop I’ve done. Our youth were all gathered around in a circle and we were all talking about the differences between us and our parents, why there is that gap in the first place, why our parents are the way they are and how that affects the person that we are now. It was a really open and intimate workshops as people went around sharing their experiences and backgrounds, opening up and reflecting while I would lightly facilitate if needed while I and everyone else really listened to everyone’s story. It was that day, during that workshop that I finally felt and realized the importance of my role and really understood my love for my job. Honestly, I was so close to crying because my mind and heart has never felt so clear.

What issues or problems matter to you?

I want to impact mental health, reproductive health, rent control, immigrant rights, worker’s rights and controlling gentrification.

What motivates you to be involved in creating change in these areas? 

As I grow up and develop mentally and physically and keep learning more from those at my organization, I realize how much I’m impacted by all these issues. Some of these issues were always there, but I just didn’t realize it. For example, growing up I had an Auntie that was living with us, but we weren’t supposed to talk about it with anyone other than close family. I didn’t question or think about it much because I was young, but I now realize that it was because she was undocumented and if she was found out, she would be deported back to the Philippines. She became a caregiver because wages and rights weren’t exactly regulated. That’s part of why I want to work on worker’s rights and immigrant rights. Not to mention, as I’ve gotten older, reproductive health and mental health has been more relevant to me, which I don’t want taken away from me. Rent control and gentrification is something that has always been around, but I never knew what it was called and how it affects families by giving them no other choice but to move because it’s too expensive.

What do your friends and your family think of your involvement?

My friends support me and my organization by going to our meetings, workshops, door knockings, garden parties, phone banking, events, and programs. One even became an intern. My family doesn’t really understand or ask about the work I’m doing, but they know that it is a good thing for our community and they show support in taking me there and picking me up and sometimes going to events. Overall, my family is happy that I’m doing this and being out of the house instead of being inside and watching YouTube or Netflix.

How do you feel that your work has made a difference?

I strongly feel that the people who I’ve recruited and have had the pleasure of facilitating, learn more or at least think about/appreciate more than they did before they walked through the door. I feel that my presence, personality, and work ethic in my host organization brings a little bit more of a structure, neatness, and meaning while still being creative and interactive, whether it’s a workshop, activity, or discussion. I feel that I have ideas that are creative and fun.