Jerry Alvarez is a youth leader with the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition, representing the coalition member organization Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network (GSAN). "Growing up in a Chicano immigrant family," Jerry says, "I have felt unsafe and powerless at school and in my community. From ICE raids to President Trump's hateful statements, my family and neighborhood are under attack."
A student at Alliance Marc & Eva Stern Math and Science High School, Jerry lives in Boyle Heights.
"At school, I've been bullied," he says. "One boy was even suspended for picking on me. My vice principal punished the bully, but this did not solve the problem. He continues to stare me down and push me in the halls.
"But even in the face of bullies, I stand strong and remain focused on my education. The Brothers, Sons, Selves, Coalition has helped me feel safe and has taught me how to advocate for my rights. Working with Brothers, Sons, Selves, I've learned how to identify a problem and implement solutions."
As an activist with the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition, Jerry testified in front of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education as well as California state legislators. "Our coalition passed the School Climate Bill of Rights [in 2013] to ensure that students in Los Angeles can learn in safe and nurturing environments, instead of constantly fearing being suspended for talking back or wearing the wrong clothing. This led to a significant decline in the rate of suspensions each year—from eight percent of students to less than one half of one percent of students each year."
The Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition youth leaders also learned that passing new laws isn't enough to secure lasting change. New policies must be implemented, and in the case of discipline reforms at the L.A. Unified School District, the old, ineffective discipline policy was replaced by a positive approach. Resources for counselors and staff training were vital. Jerry was part of the campaign to fund the new policy sufficiently, and says, "We increased the budget to $10 million for restorative justice."
Now Jerry says, "I no longer feel powerless. Change isn't easy, but it is possible."