Today, as our state faces many challenges, we are too often reminded why young leaders are needed more than ever.
We were both fortunate to attend the first-ever annual conference of the Take Action Institute, a student-led initiative from Florida’s Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center. There, young leaders from across our state, including Leah, a student at Rollins College and part of the Bonner Leader Program, came together to learn and show their passion for leadership and activism.
As Anna said at the conference, “When you direct service toward a common, egoless cause, it’s remarkable how you can find yourself in a community with real power to effect change. The power of this community was in full force in Orlando and should inspire us in Tallahassee. In many ways, the future is now.
The Take Action Institute is guided by the lessons of the Holocaust with a vision for a just and caring community. The institute supports student movements that act against all forms of prejudice and bigotry.
During the conference, student leaders from across the state, sharing a common passion for social justice, were able to have conversations with top experts on policy, advocacy, strategy and media. Through a joint partnership with the USC Shoah Foundation, research from the conference showed that these students said they had hope in their ability to be agents of change, inspired by other young activists and ready to have a positive impact towards greater equity and justice in our communities.
Recently, Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1557, dubbed by opponents the “don’t say gay” bill, and the Florida Legislature also passed legislation making it easier to ban books with essential stories that young adults must be exposed. This assault on basic human rights, dignity and education reflects a legislature that is out of step with the priorities and concerns of young people. This legislation attempts to erase conversations about race in all academic and business settings, and targets LGBTQ+ identity in educational spaces.
The legislation directly impacts young people in Florida, and although college students cannot vote; they still have a voice – and a strong voice at that. Many students staged strikes across the state to protest this legislation, which speaks volumes about the efficiency and commitment of our generation.
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Gen Z leaders are more deliberate, collaborative, diverse, and inclusive than previous generations. Young leaders, contrary to popular belief, are more interested in ‘advice culture’ than ‘cancellation culture’. People are called before they are called.
We also know that there are ways to solve problems with compassion and honest communication about complex matters. We understand the value of building organizations with teams that reflect the full spectrum of humanity and listen as they share their honest perspectives on past and current issues and triumphs. Young leaders understand this naturally and we can all learn from them.
Orlando-born and raised Representative Anna V. Eskamani is the daughter of immigrants and was elected to serve the House 47 district in 2018 and re-elected in 2020. Leah Hornik is a student at Rollins College, where she is member. of the Bonner Leaders program. She has spent the past three years volunteering at the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center.