This video is part of “Stepping Up,” a short video series featuring four impressive young people working for change in their communities and explaining what sparked them to action. Watch all four videos here.

“When it’s time to step up and be a leader, that’s what I’m always going to do.”

Meet Veronica S., a 17-year-old high school student and community activist from Richmond, Calif.

Veronica is no stranger to tough times. As a kid, her father was sentenced to prison, leaving her family scambling to find stable housing. For years, they moved from one relative’s house to another. At times, when no other options were available, they hopped between cheap hotel rooms and even slept in their car.

“I know a lot of people are going through the same thing as me and probably even worse,” Veronica said. “That really motivated me to start doing what I do now.”

She found her calling as a community activist after a school counselor referred her to RYSE, a local youth center. There she met other young people who had also overcome difficult experiences and were engaged in inspiring community projects.

Veronica says she loves Richmond, but admits it has serious problems. The small industrial city across the bay from San Francisco has long struggled with high rates of poverty and violent crime. Because of limited access to healthy food and poor air quality (the Chevron refinery is right next door), large numbers of residents, including many children, struggle with health ailments like asthma and diet-related diseases.

Guided by her mentors at RYSE, Veronica dove head first into tackling some of theses issues, becoming involved in various local youth-led campaigns to improve community health and safety.

“We do a lot for our community,” she said. “We’re trying to get more youth centers around Richmond so we can have more resources for low-income children like me and my brother and my sisters.”

After graduating from high school, Veronica hopes to attend San Francisco State University, but says she plans to eventually come back to Richmond.

“I want to explore more but I’ll always know that Richmond is where I came from. That’s where I sprouted from.”

Veronica says she thinks a lot about her younger brother and sister and who they will become as they get older.

“They look up to me, so if I had the opportunity to change my community, when they grow up, hopefully they’ll follow in my footsteps,” she said.

“There’s a lot of powerful people that came from doing something when they were younger. So I just want to be one of those people that helps my community, not just leave it how it is.”

To find Veronica and the three other students in our Stepping Up series, we searched across the Bay Area for a diverse array of young activists representing different cities and perspectives with inspiring stories to share.

AND we want to hear from you! Let us know if you have a story to share. Are you a young person who’s passionate about a social or political issue and taken action? Or do you know some who fits that description? Submit your video, audio or written piece to KQED Education’s Fall Youth Media Challenge. Go here for submission guidelines.

WATCH: A High School Activist from Richmond, on Stepping Up for Her Community 22 December,2017Matthew Green

Author

Matthew Green

Matthew Green produces and edits The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog, an online resource for educators and the general public. He previously taught journalism at Fremont High School in East Oakland, and has written for numerous local publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. Email: mgreen@kqed.org; Twitter: @MGreenKQED

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