Most high school students usually spend their lunch time hanging out with friends.
For Eduardo Pacheco, it was a different story.
Instead, the recent high school graduate spent his lunch – and even breaks during classes – rummaging for cans and plastic bottles that he could recycle. Every little bit of money he earned helped his family, who had a difficult time making ends meet after his father couldn’t find a construction job during the recession.
“The biggest worry for many students in high school was their social life,” Eduardo, 18, said. “I, on the other hand, was concerned with what I could do to financially help my family.”
But Eduardo also never lost sight of a loftier goal: To keep his grades up and stay involved in extracurricular activities so he could get accepted to a university.
His dedication and hard work paid off – the Woodrow Wilson High School graduate was accepted to UC Santa Barbara and is one of the recipients of the Marguerite Casey Foundation’s 2015 Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty award. Named after Sargent Shriver, architect of the War on Poverty and visionary leader of Head Start, Peace Corps, Job Corps and VISTA, the $5,000 award recognizes youth vision, passion and dedication to improving the lives of families and their communities.
“Over time, I realized that I am not the only one struggling in my community with poverty,” Eduardo said. “I have seen neighbors struggling as well to pay their bills, have food on their tables and make college a reality for their children.”
“This is why I became involved with InnerCity Struggle to fight against injustices because of poverty in my community,” he added.
At ICS, Eduardo became a member of United Students at Wilson high school and helped lead a task force that explained Los Angeles Unified School District’s Student Climate Bill of Rights to students and adults. Passed in 2013, the bill banned student suspensions for “willful defiance,” an approach that had led to high suspension and expulsion rates, particularly among students of color.
“My responsibility was to support the implementation of this bill so that all students and community members could understand their rights,” he added.
Eduardo also joined the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition (BSS), a coalition of Los Angeles community organizations that works to improve the lives of young men of color.
“BSS is where I began my commitment to alter the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ and advocate for the school to college pathway,” Eduardo said. “As a young male of color, I understand the struggles of facing police discrimination and harsh punishment.”
Eduardo joined the campaign pushing for passage of Proposition 47, which was passed and created a law that reduces certain nonviolent crimes from felonies into misdemeanors.
At UC Santa Barbara, Eduardo plans to major in political science and continue his political activism by “working towards improving the conditions for my community and other communities affected by poverty.”
Good luck, Eduardo, and congratulations on receiving the Shriver Award!