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Carrboro High School Club Hosts Latina Congresswoman for Hispanic Heritage Event

Although Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) of South Florida is in one of the toughest re-election battles in the country, she made time on October 15 to pay a virtual visit with Carrboro High School (CHS) students on the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month. Bella Lane, a CHS senior and student president of the Students Demand Action and March for our Lives chapters at the school, arranged the presentation because she wanted to draw attention to the need for minority empowerment at the polls. “We wanted to hold an event that draws attention to Latinos in politics,” Lane said.

“We chose to reach out to Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell of Florida's 26th congressional district because she has a background that so many underrepresented students can relate to,” Lane said, “and as one of the only female, immigrant, and Latina figures in the decision-making of this country, our hope is that students can see themselves in her.”

Mucarsel-Powell opened her remarks with a quick summary of her life story as an Ecuadorian-American in Miami, having moved to the U.S. at the age of 14 with a mother who spoke no English. By 15 she was rising early to work shifts at a doughnut shop before going to school, and she emphasized the degree to which her background has shaped her politics. Her father was killed by gun violence back in Ecuador, and Mucarsel-Powell’s dedication to gun control is one of her primary issues. She embraces a natural affinity with the many American high school students who have also adopted the cause.

Mucarsel-Powell spoke to the largely female audience with a real passion for women’s empowerment. “Women need more representation in almost all industries. We need representation and respect,” she said.

Lane’s own family is originally from Homestead, Florida, which is part of the congresswoman’s district. “Since my grandma is extremely politically active, she knows the mayor of Homestead who knows the congresswoman,” Lane said. “I got her office's contact information and talked to her assistant and scheduler.” And so Mucarsel-Powell carved out time to meet with Lane and other students, less than three weeks before the November 3 election.

Aida Delony, another CHS student and member, said, “It was such an interesting experience to speak with Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell today, not only becausclub e she is such an inspiring woman but also to understand the importance of politics on a smaller scale. I feel more empowered now to pay attention to the political climate within my district rather than only looking at the United States as a whole.”

“Honestly, I was scared, but speaking to a lawmaker sort of humanized her and made lawmakers seem more approachable,” Lane said. “Speaking to the congresswoman felt relieving to meet someone of significant importance in this country with the same background as me. I aspire to go into politics, but I rarely meet someone of Hispanic heritage in politics because we make up such a low number of politicians.”

“This is one of my favorite things to do-- to speak to students,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “When people ask, what gives you hope, I say, this generation of students who, despite growing up in an environment where gun violence has become an epidemic, despite the fact that from one day to the next, they suddenly needed to stay home as the pandemic hit. Despite all that, here you are, stronger than ever, committed to getting more engaged, committed to finding solutions to some of the most critical issues we have in our nation. Your generation is the one that is tackling these challenges.”