Educate For Action

Educating from the perspective of those imperialized in order to create solidarity and positive action

Photo of Karina Mendez
7 3

Written by

Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Idea (hoping to get started in the future)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Many Americans do not know the history and perspective of American citizens and nationals living on US territories. This problem exists because our history books and government classes do not tell the story of the territories beyond their annexation. As a result, the voices of those living on these territories often goes unheard or ignored. Uplifting all Americans is important in ensuring everyone's voice is heard and Americans are truly informed

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

I will solve this problem by creating a social media campaign spreading information that is not known to many Americans living in the mainland United States. This information will consist of statements about who is represented in Congress, how they are represented, and what institutions such as FEMA affect our territories and the people living on them. As a Young People For fellow, I am developing a "Blueprint for Social Justice" about this topic and creating a budget, organization structure, goals, and a civic engagement plan. I plan to use the skills and knowledge I learn from YP4 and this challenge to create a curriculum that can be informally taught from person to person by word of mouth and social media outlets, but also formally taught in workshops or class sections on American history in schools. Education is essential to advocacy and my vision is a system and curriculum that encourages people to be active in their communities and advocate for those whose voices are not normally heard. This advocacy section of my plan is important because if people put pressure on Congress members concerning bills affecting territories, Congressional members will listen to their constituents

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I decided I wanted to be a change maker after hearing negative and disparaging comments made about Puerto Rico, especially after Hurricane Maria. It became a common occurrence hearing people say they did not understand why the US was helping Puerto Rico. Hearing a person say that Puerto Rico was a piece of crap really motivated me to change the perspective around territories. Many Americans cannot name the five inhabited organized territories of the US. Starting this project means being able to share the beauty of the islands and the unique struggles they endure. Puerto Rico has held referendums on political status, and while people on the island are not in agreement, it is important for Americans living on the mainland to be educated about these issues and be ready for collective action. If people on territories and people in the mainland United States mobilized, action will occur.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Manny approached me with questions about Puerto Rico after the recent 2016 presidential election. The student asked me what presidential candidate did the majority of Puerto Ricans vote for. When I informed him that Puerto Ricans cannot vote in presidential elections, he was not only shocked, but believed that Puerto Ricans should be able to elect a president that directly impacts the island and how Puerto Ricans live. Going forward, this student had a newfound interest in Puerto Rico, how it was treated, and how it was spoken about by politicians in the United States. He realized his question was a result of a broken education system that tells the story of the annexation of a territory as a victory, while ignoring the perspective of citizens and nationals living on territories. Going forward, he spread that knowledge with friends who did not understand why territories mattered.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

I have seen other projects been allied with a certain position on what they believe the status of Puerto Rico should be: statehood, current status or independence. My program is different because it aims first at the complete understanding of issues such as healthcare and voting rights that affect Americans living on American territories. With this background, the aim of my project is to encourage people to mobilize and see the struggles of these Americans on a mass scale and advocate for change within the United States and on the territories.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

My project has challenged Americans to rethink the past and current forms of colonization and calls upon them to speak up against the current injustices of the United States. When I spread knowledge about Puerto Rico and other territories that are not adequately represented in US history, people question why they aren’t represented and create their own vision of what a better and just future might look like. Many times, even Puerto Ricans in the US are surprised by their own history and discovered what had been left out of American history courses. They, in turn, spread the word about the current conditions that Puerto Ricans and other people from other territories face and what is at stake. Every person that learns about the US territories speak about the injustices that the islands face. It causes people to have a newfound hunger for knowledge and justice for American territories.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Over the course of the year, I will develop my Blueprint for Social Justice, evaluate how a social media campaign can work, develop visual marketing skills to draw people into the campaign, and develop a budget that would be necessary for this project. I will also be creating an organizational structure to ensure that my project can and will succeed with, or without me. In addition, I plan on partnering with established non-profits that unite Puerto Ricans on the mainland US and on the island for collective action for progressive policies. Partnering with organizations that advocate for democracy, economic justice, and civic engagement will allow me to both learn from successful organizations and create space for a collaborative action.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Program Design

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

8 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 75%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 25%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 75%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 12.5%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 12.5%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 75%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 12.5%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 12.5%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 40%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 20%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 20%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 62.5%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 25%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 12.5%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Project Imagine

Wow - what a great idea. It is not easy to educate people about territories or how they are link to colonization but it is SO important! Have you read Howard Zinn "People's History of the United States" ... he has great resources online that may help you build your curriculum. We need your voice.

Photo of Marianne Riquelme

Karina, I am so excited for you and this project! Puerto Rico is an important part of U.S. history and the economy, and people should be educated on the unique issues this beautiful island faces. Looking forward to this!

Photo of Jordan Brown

Karina, your plan to mobilize Puerto Rican’s to economic development to sustain and truly be considered under equitable policies under the U.S. is attainable and a space for you to trailblazer, especially as a young woman of Puerto Rican descent. Laying the foundation is key and I believe with the right support, especially building power in Puerto Rican communities from a grassroots level instead of being controlled by the narrative from a top down approach, you will be successful.

Photo of Chris Paris

Karina, I really like that you have a solid plan and how you broke down how you’re going to achieve your goal and explaining the problem about the lack of knowledge when it comes to U.S territories such as Puerto Rico and acknowledging other programs that are similar but how you will be different. You’re on the right path to make a big change! ��

Photo of Monica paulino

Karina, I really believe you are set to do big things! This campaign is very thorough and well put together. I applaud your initiative and passion behind this topic. Looking forward to seeing how this develops and thrives!

Photo of Sarah Holcomb

Hi Karina! Thanks for sharing your idea and personal journey — I love how you focus on the power of perspective in creating awareness. As you strategize for your campaign, you might find some inspiration from the Shorty Award’s list of “best social movement campaigns." As a photographer, I personally think photo projects are also an amazing tool to show what life or history looks like from a different perspective. There are tons of cool “photovoice” projects designed to spark social change if you're interested. I can’t wait to see your campaign take off!

Photo of Sarah Wheeler

100% education is key, I will admit I don’t know anything about Puerto Rico and you have me wanted to learn more .