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Teenagers rally at the Roundhouse to support bills and learn about legislation

Representatives of a coalition of youth groups chant outside the Roundhouse
Alice Fordham
Representatives of a coalition of youth groups chant outside the Roundhouse

Hundreds of teenagers marched through Santa Fe to the Roundhouse Tuesday to support bills under consideration in the legislature, and to learn more about how lawmaking works.

More than 400 young people, most of them middle and high school students, gathered at the farmers' market in Santa Fe for training in the legislative process. They heard from Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and democracy advocates before marching through the streets, holding banners, chanting and waving at motorists honking horns.

Three organizations rallied the young people: The Semilla Project, Dreams In Action NM, and the NM Dream Team, which supports immigrant youth.

The groups are supporting several bills, including Senate Bill 172, which would end contracts with companies to detain people for federal civil immigration violations.

"It's hurting our community. It's separating families. It's messing with mental health," said Itzayana Banda, the communications manager with NM Dream Team.

The coalition is supporting House Bill 4, designed to create broader and safer election participation, and Senate Bill 9, a conservation initiative. It is also calling for another year of full funding for college tuition via the Opportunity Scholarship.

More generally, the leaders say they want young people to feel they have a say in their future.

"They get to get their voices out," said Itzayana Banda of the NM Dream Team. "It empowers them."

Lesly Torres-Medina, 13, said she attended to learn more about how policy works, in the hope of reducing racism in society.

"There have been times in which I've been told to go back to my country," she said. "My family is from Mexico. When they came here, they didn't speak English. And so they were discriminated against a lot and I'm trying to learn how to stop that."

After the crowds rallied outside the Roundhouse, they went to watch floor sessions, where they were greeted by lawmakers.

Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.
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