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Promoting civic engagement in California’s Latino youth

The Issue

In 2014, Latino’s became the “new majority” in the state of California, with 14.99 million representing 38.75% of the total population (Los Angeles Times, July 2015). Latinos (Hispanics) are the nation’s youngest major racial/ethnic group with an average age of 28 years old. Nearly half of U.S.-born Latinos are younger than 18 (Pew Research Center, 2016). California Latinos under age 18 now comprise 23.2% of the overall population (U.S. Census Quickfacts, 2016). Regrettably, Latinos continue to be underrepresented among voters compared to those eligible to vote and the overall population (Romero, 2016). Due to this new demographic for California and the United States, it is particularly important that Latino youth develop into engaged and informed citizens to respond to their increasing influence in the elections. Latino populations need to become more educated and more civic-minded.

What Has ANR Done?

California is supporting and encouraging the participation of Latino youth in 4-H programs. California Focus (CalFocus) is one of these programs. CalFocus is a unique citizenship educational experience that combines hands-on participation workshops, debates, and simulations with outstanding speakers and historical, cultural, and government sites. The objective of CalFocus is for the 4-H members to experience California’s government in action by participating in legislative, political, and judicial processes. California 4-H members between ages 14 to 19 are eligible to participate. Nonetheless, participation fees and travel costs are a limitation to attend this event. Recognizing the importance of Latino youth civic engagement, California 4-H Foundation raised funds to support twenty-eight Latino teenagers to attend CalFocus in 2016 and 2017. The Latino 4-H members selected for these awards were selected by the County 4-H Advisors and Program Representatives in each one of the UC ANR 4-H Latino Initiative counties (Sonoma, Merced, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Kern, Orange, and Riverside).

The Payoff

Youth increased their knowledge about their government

With the funds raised by the CA 4-H Foundation and the support of the Legacy Foundation, fourteen youth attended in 2016 and fourteen in 2017, which marks the highest Latino attendance to this event. The evaluation shows that 96% of the youth attending expressed that they care about their country, and 92% are aware of the important needs of their community. The participants agree that this event helped them to engage and understand California’s government system. Youth attending the conference reported increased skills and knowledge about their government and how to make a difference in their communities, including civic engagement, appreciation of cultural differences, and awareness of their communities.

Clientele Testimonial

“Being able to attend California Focus was an amazing experience for me. Learning about how our government operates and about the branches of government really made me interested in political issues that were affecting California. . . I am grateful for the Latino Initiative for providing me with a scholarship; otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to experience any of it.” V.A. age 17

"It was awesome! I loved it! I learned so much! My favorite part was going to the capitol and meeting with [Assembly Member] Rudy Salas." E. C.

For more details on the data and reports cited in this story, please reach out to the author.


Maria G. Fabregas Janeiro, PhD. UC ANR Assistant Director for Diversity and Expansion/4-H Advisor, lfabregas@ucanr.edu; Claudia P. Diaz Carrasco, 4-H Advisor Riverside and San Bernardino, cpdiaz@ucanr.edu; J. Campos; E. Rodriguez;