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Mayor Visits SFHS: “Students Should Feel The City Is On Their Side”

Wyatte Grantham-Philips, Author

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“For the last three and a half years, one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most is being in our schools,” said Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales during a campus visit. “There’s a lot that I learn, and a lot that I get to share about what I do.”

Mayor Gonzales spoke to students in Ms. Akers’ first-period government class on Jan. 30, where he talked about his experience in office and addressed student questions ranging from the structure and history of the U.S. government to current political issues in and outside the city limits.

“Part of what you guys got to think about today and talk about is [the question], Is this form of government actually working the way our forefathers and our founders wanted it to work?” he said to the class.

By tackling subjects like national immigration policy and reform, poverty and unemployment in New Mexico, and affordable housing and tourism in Santa Fe, Gonzales and the students were able to have a conversation where both got to express their views and concerns about everyday life in today’s world.

“It’s important that we’re able to share things that we’re working on on a daily basis,” Gonzales said, “that we’re able to answer questions that people think about. I think that we tend to marginalize people and not really take their opinion into account too often when we’re making decisions, and that’s wrong. We have to change that, so part of it is coming out to [places] where people are being educated, where they’re all in a single space where we can listen and learn, and be able to share ideas.”

Gonzales said elected officials should visit schools “and really share what they do, but more importantly, be able to listen to students and what their thoughts are, what they’re concerned about, or what they would like to have addressed, and then hopefully go out and [act on it].”

Aspen Weigold, who participated in the talk, agrees that it is beneficial for elected officials to come and speak to young people. “I think it’s really important because we’re the next generation,” she said. “[Mayor Gonzales] was really cool,” she added, “I’m sad to see him go.”

As Gonzales’ term nears its end, he reflected on his time in office, telling Aspen and her classmates why he ran in the first place.

“I felt that our city wasn’t talking about the things that we should be talking about,” he said. “If our city is only focused on making sure that we have our potholes filled and our weeds pulled, but we’re not talking about family security, we’re not talking about our children’s opportunity for education, we’re not talking about standing up and saying ‘all people are welcome’ and taking action to do that, then our city won’t really thrive…. I wanted to elevate the conversations.”

Gonzales continued, “I’ve loved every bit of it. I have fully participated in being the mayor, which means I can leave feeling very good that I did everything that I wanted to. … The people in Santa Fe have given me an education that is world class.”

Gonzales also stressed the responsibility the mayor has to the city’s youth, saying it is essential to “make sure that every young person feels like the city is on their side.”

“Whether it’s supporting them while they’re making their way through the K-12 environment, making sure that there’s jobs that are available during the summer…making sure that we have all the critical support services…[and] that, for the time that a student spends outside of the classroom, that we’re doing everything we can to make sure that it’s a positive experience for our students and our families,” he said.

In light of the current mayoral election and the fact that many high school students in Santa Fe will be eligible to vote on March 6, Gonzales said, “Every person that’s eligible to vote needs to go and vote.

“It’s absolutely important to participate,” he continued. “[Student voters] want to be able to look for an individual who really understands the full spectrum of what it is to lead a city, they want in an individual somebody who understands it’s as important to make sure that our streets are clean as it is to focus on building an economy in our city that is available to everybody, and all the things in between.

“Most importantly it is for the student to think about what’s important to them … and then to do some research and see which of the individuals who are running for office matches up to their values, and then go and vote. That’s the way every election should be, where a person starts with what matters to them most and then connects that to the person that’s on the ballot.”

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Mayor Visits SFHS: “Students Should Feel The City Is On Their Side”