Casa Grande’s Lucia Garay to speak on alongside Golden Globe winner Tracee Ellis Ross

Women in Conversation is set for March 20 at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts|

“My parents always taught me that when you see something wrong, you have to do something about it. You can’t just sit idly by,” said Lucía Garay.

Garay is a junior at Casa Grande High School, a cross country runner and a lover of baking. But it’s Garay’s activism on environmental, political, social, racial and economic issues that sets her apart from other teens.

Garay has been selected as a featured speaker of the Sonoma County Women in Conversation, a biannual event that showcases the stories of extraordinary women such as Jaycee Dugard and Ashley Judd. During the March 20 event at the Luther Burbank Center of the Arts, Garay will be featured alongside actress and political activist Tracee Ellis Ross of the hit show “Black-ish.”

Garay became captivated by the country’s tumultuous political climate when she was in middle school and police shootings dominated the media coverage, including the local death of teenager Andy Lopez. She felt “very hopeless” and turned to the Sonoma County Junior Commission on Human Rights, motivated by a desire to get involved and take action. Today, she chairs the organization, which educates youth on local human rights concerns, in addition to teaching the next generation how to advocate for an issue using local and state government.

Garay most recently helped organize Petaluma’s Women’s March in January, where she was also a student speaker. It wasn’t her first time organizing a protest. She helped put together the March For Our Lives rally in Santa Rosa last March, one of many protests held across the country calling for stricter gun laws in the wake of the Parkland shooting in Florida.

“Don’t just speak, scream until they hear you” she told the impassioned crowd during that rally, according to The Press Democrat.

Her young age has caused some apprehension with her political activism.

“I feel young and inexperienced compared to a lot of people that I’m working with,” she said. “But, I also think that my youth gives me like a fresh perspective on things, so I try to use that to my advantage.”

Garay is particularly self-reliant, as she notes what primarily motivates her to do the work she does.

“I feel responsible to say something if I see something that I don’t agree with, or if I see someone being hurt,” she said. “I come from a place of privilege, and I have the power and the education and the motivation and the resources to speak out.”

While youth participation in social issues is on the rise nationally, Garay’s passionate pursuit of her politics makes her stand out among Petaluma teenagers. She hopes to inspire other students to get involved and have their voices heard.

“A lot of people are either uneducated, apathetic or they’re scared to take action. I would say to those people, if you see something wrong and you’re not doing anything about it, what makes you think that it’s going to get fixed?” she asked. “You can’t just sit around and wait for someone else to do it for you.”

Garay explains that she is both eager and anxious for the future and the problems on the horizon. She is primarily concerned about climate change and the status of the environment.

“I see myself probably working in environmental activism because I don’t see how we can continue as a species or as a society if we don’t address those issues first,” she said. “And I’m considering law or politics because it seems like the easiest way to make a difference.”

In October, she headed to Oregon along with thousands of other supporters, to show her support for Our Children’s Trust. On behalf of 21 children who have been affected by global warming, the nonprofit is suing the federal government for its failure to act on climate change.

Garay wrote about the experience: “The lawsuit was finally scheduled to take place at the federal courthouse of Eugene, Oregon on Monday, Oct. 29. Less than a week before the scheduled opening statement, the Trump administration filed a stay, meaning that after three years of work, the plaintiffs and counsel could not even set foot in the courtroom on the appointed day.

“Many speculated that the Trump administration intended to postpone the hearing until Justice Brett Kavanaugh was fully confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. Despite the disappointing turn of events, the plaintiffs and their supporters traveled to Eugene on October the 29th order to show their solidarity and protest the stay.”

She said it is crucial that all people have something that they’re passionate about. For her, that is any injustice that she can’t let slide and the future health of our planet.

(Megan Gauer is a sophmore at Casa Grande High School and a member of the Argus-Courier student reporter program.)

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