By Bryan Pearson
SALT LAKE CITY — More than 500 students, ranging in age from third graders to ninth graders, gathered at Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Feb. 19, for Multicultural Youth Leadership Day.
Geoffrey Fattah, communications director of The Department of Heritage and Arts who sponsored the event, said the 500 in attendance were future leaders.
“The purpose of the event is to show under-served and minority students that they are the future of Utah. Demographic projections show that within about 40 years minorities in Utah will be the majority,” Fattah said.
The Multicultural Affairs website says that the event is “a day to empower our youth to become the leaders of tomorrow; (and that) students will learn how they can be agents of positive social change in an increasingly diverse and multicultural community.”
Of the youth gathered for the leadership day, several received awards for “outstanding performance and dedication.”
Azteca Valerio-Bedolla, 13, from Salt Lake, who attends the Salt Lake Center for Science Education, was one to receive such an award. Valerio-Bedolla received her award for starting an anti-bullying campaign called the Blue Pinky Campaign. As part of the campaign, Valerio-Bedolla would have fellow students paint their pinkies blue and take an anti-bullying pledge.
Valerio-Bedolla started the campaign after finding out a friend of hers had been intentionally cutting herself as a result of bullying. Valerio-Bedolla started doing research about teen suicide, cutting and depression, which led her to start the campaign.
“It feels really good knowing that my campaign has been recognized and that … people can make a difference over time and know that bullying is a really serious thing,” Valerio-Bedolla said.
John Haugland, a third grader from Sunset who attends Mountain View Elementary, received his award for giving a motivational speech about the importance of education.
“I wanted to give a motivational speech because I wanted to help my community, number one, and number two because I wanted … everybody to know that they need to believe in the children and that we need to have education today, the nation needs us today; we cannot drop out of school,” Haugland said.