Every new generation seeks change, and Generation Z is no different
Although most people picture little kids glued to their parents’ iPads or phones when they hear the term Gen Z, the truth is many of us are all grown up. Generation Z (also known as Zoomers) encompasses everyone born from 1997 to 2012, making the oldest of our generation (born in January) already 26. Not only that but according to the U.S. Census, Gen Z and millennials make up 42.3% of the population, while baby boomers and Gen X make up 41.7%.
Despite making up almost half the population, millennials and Gen Z are grossly underrepresented in every level of leadership in this country. This is deeply concerning as in 50 years we (and the generations to come) will be the ones reaping the benefits or paying the price for decisions made today.
However, that is changing. The news has recently been filled with surprisingly young political leaders and activists marking the “firsts” of Gen Z’s stepping into the world of leadership.
Some, like Greta Thunberg (age 20), make international headlines by challenging and addressing world leaders on shortcomings and imploring much needed action against climate change. She has brought a voice to worried youth who want a healthy, beautiful world to live in and to avoid the catastrophe we are spiraling toward.
Democrat Maxwell Frost (who turned 26 on Jan. 17) made news by becoming the first (and only) Gen Z elected to Congress. This was particularly shocking when you consider in 2021 the “average age of Members of the House at the beginning of the 117th Congress was 58.4 years.” This means that on average the majority of his colleagues are more than double his age.
Alex Lee (age 25) is not only the first Gen Z but also the first openly bisexual to become a California state legislator. Lee refused to accept campaign donations from any large corporations and wants to push for future legislation to keep corporate funding out of politics.
There are also many young people here in our own backyard trying to make a difference.
Lindsay is a small agricultural city in Tulare County with a population of 12,659 (2020 Census). This is where Hipolito Angel Cerros grew up, graduating from his local high school with honors in 2016. He graduated from UC Davis in 2022, two years after being appointed to Lindsay’s City Council (making him the youngest to serve on the Council in Lindsay’s history).
Now, he is Lindsay’s youngest mayor. In December 2022, Cerros took on the mayoral title after having been mayor pro tem.
Since becoming mayor, his team has
- Approved $3.5 million in street repairs
- Approved a water rebate program
- Secured a $5 million grant for a city park
- Hired a new police chief
Cerros is actively representing the Central Valley and has dreams to represent the struggles it faces in Congress. He’s even alluded on social media that becoming a Congressperson is his goal.
According to his bio on Lindsay’s website, Cerros “hopes to improve the city’s infrastructure, promote economic development, and reestablish a trusting relationship between public officials and their constituents during his time.”
Representation matters in every aspect of life. It matters in entertainment, where we can see our stories, struggles and dreams play out. It matters in the media, where we learn the truths about ourselves and those around us. It is important for our needs and existence to be acknowledged.
Currently, and let’s face it, for most of this country’s history, those in power have not represented the people. From women, people of color, LGBTQ+, etc., we should all have a voice. That is true democracy, not a bunch of out-of-touch rich White men.
And despite what we are told, our singular votes do matter. Change has to start in our own backyard. We must focus on both the large and local scale of things to ensure that at every level we are heard.