Jocelyne Asturias is a third-year college student at California State University, Long Beach. Her experiences growing up and attending school in Los Angeles sparked her interest in organizing with Our Turn. She believes that speaking out on the educational inequity low-income and first generations students face can spark change that will support the next generation.
Read this Q&A to learn more about Jocelyne’s journey and why she believes student voices are critical to this moment.
How did you learn about Our Turn?
I learned about Our Turn at a protest happening in downtown L.A.. I was working with another community organization and one of our members suggested we go to Grand Park in downtown L.A. for the Families Stay Together protest of the deportation processes that are happening and she connected us with a couple Our Turn members.
We know that Our Turn members deeply understand education inequity because they have first hand experiences. What’s your opinion on why education equity is still an issue?
I grew up in Southeast L.A. thinking things like lack of funding for school supplies or lack of diverse staff only happened at my school. And once I got to college and started working with Our Turn I realized that this is something that happens in a lot of districts nearby, and not just here in California, but nationally.
One of the downsides I saw throughout my education was the school not having enough funds to take students to go see colleges, for example. Another thing that impacted me when I was in school; I was very involved in performing and visual arts. I loved having an art program at my school. And realized how my school prioritized STEM courses and didn’t put an emphasis on cultural education and the art program. That got my attention, like why are art schools and drama schools in Central L.A. options, but schools in my area are only focused on STEM? In addition, we only had one grade-level college counselor who also worked to organize students’ class schedules and other matters. As a senior applying to college, it felt like my support became limited when it came to school staff who were trained in the college application process.
What do you feel like is in a student's future if we don’t support organizations like Our Turn that ensure student voices are heard?
A lot of it has to do with representation. Especially as Our Turn is giving a platform for students and without that I think these issues might not be taken seriously and considered. With L.A.’s Our Turn chapter, there are people who look like me, which has helped me embrace that organization. If other organizations don’t have that representation, what are they fighting for?
Students across the nation are saying, “I don’t feel like I belong here.” Our Turn is providing a space where student voices and experiences can be heard and understood and they can say, “Hey, I went through that too”. If you could change one thing about how students are experiencing education, what would you do?
Definitely make education free and accessible...Students should have the resources they need, so they’re not using outdated textbooks or anything of the sort. And students should have representation in the school environment. I love history as a subject, but there were not a lot of discussions where I heard about my own people or I heard about events that happened in this area. I think that making education relatable to one’s life and experiences is integral to the learning process.
What makes you proud to be an Our Turn member?
I’m proud to be a member because I grew up hearing about how the communities in Southeast L.A. are looked down on. I’m proud to be a part of this movement because although we lack the resources other students have, we have experiences of our own that are valuable. We were able to make it. We made it through however we did. Our parents were full time workers. Whatever our experiences were that maybe middle class parents wouldn’t think of, we still survived and we’re out here making it work. And now we are working to eliminate the obstacles we faced so younger generations aren’t discouraged by them.
What do you want to say to any student who may be experiencing educational inequity?
To any students reading this who come from a low-income or minority background, know that you have a place in this world. The color of your skin, your gender identity doesn’t define you or shouldn’t make you isolated. You’re a valuable person in this world. And it’s important to connect with individuals and organizations like Our Turn who value these things and work to provide the space for voices to be heard.
Our Turn activates students, predominantly students of color from low-income backgrounds, who are proximate to the issues and ready to share unique insight into the education needs within their communities. Join the movement.