#8 Are We Pursuing Voice or Influence or Both?

Raising awareness is key.

Changing what people care about already makes a difference, and just getting your views into the public conversation is meaningful. Making the invisible visible is already an important civic and political action and a form of activism. Are you also trying to drive change beyond visibility? You’ll need that raised awareness to elevate civic and political engagement over time.
No More Closets Campaign: The Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project organizes the LGBTQ undocumented community along with allies through advocacy campaigns, leadership development, and toolkits and resources. The No More Closets campaign calls upon “undocuqueers” to come out through videos in order to raise visibility about and fight for the dignity and empowerment of both communities.

Teachers can use the Ten Questions Content Organizer to parse a big issue into small discussion topics. Have students fill in the blanks; they can think about the choices they would make and why, and what the consequences would be like. See an example here: "Facing History with the YPP Action Framework––Focusing on Eyes on the Prize: Ain’t Scared of Your Jails






1. Why Does It Matter to Me?


2. How Much Should I Share?


3. How Do I Make It About More than Myself?


4. Where Do We Start?


5. How Can We Make It Easy and Engaging?


6. How Do You Get Wisdom from Crowds?


7. How Do You Handle the Downside of Crowds?


8. Are We Pursuing Voice or Influence or Both?


9. How Do We Get from Voice to Change?


10. How Can We Find Allies?


Quinceañeras Protest at the Capitol


Quinceañeras at the Capitol[1]

Why would fifteen year old Latina girls hold a symbolic quinceañera right of passage celebration on the steps of the Texas



On July 2017 media from around the world flashed images of fifteen Latina young women wearing quinceañera dresses speaking out to affirm their identities and to protest what they experienced and perceived to be a grave injustice—SB4, a Texas immigration law.

According to the Texas Chronicle:

As passed, SB 4 allows local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest and punishes local government department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration “detainers” — requests by agents to turn over immigrants subject to possible deportation — in the form of jail time and penalties that exceed $25,000.

This lesson explores these young women’s motivations, personal stories, and their strategies in this civic action:


  1. From Quinceañera to Protest: Tejana Teens Fight SB 4 Immigration Law, Latino USA, http://latinousa.org/2017/07/17/quinceanera-protest-tejana-teens-fight-sb-4-immigration-law/
  2. Meet 5 of the Tejana Teens Who Made This Quinceañera-Themed Protest a Success, Remezcla, http://remezcla.com/features/culture/meet-the-Quinceañera-at-the-capitol/
  3. Quinceañera Held at Texas Capitol Building, Teen Vogue, https://www.teenvogue.com/story/quinceanera-held-at-texas-capitol-building
  4. In Sparkly Ruffled Dresses, Quinceañeras Are About To Flood The Capitol To Protest A Texas Bill That Affects Thousands Of Latinos, Mitú, https://wearemitu.com/things-that-matter/Quinceañera-will-waltz-to-texas-capitol-to-protest-sb-4s-anti-immigration-law/
  5. Teen girls wear quinceañera dresses at the Capitol to protest sanctuary cities ban, Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com/news/texas-legislature/2017/07/19/teen-girls-host-quinceanera-capitol-protest-sanctuary-cities-ban

Teaching Objectives and Learning Outcomes

  • A goal of this lesson is to foster civic knowledge, skills, and attitudes, including deepening civic knowledge through reflection on a particular story of youth-led civic action.
  • Through reflection on the quinceañeras at the Capitol story, students will hone their civic skills and nurture civic attitudes by identifying the choices, both strategic and tactical, made by the young women who organized the protect.
  • Students will consider the relationship between individual and group identity and the civic choices that people make.
  • This lesson will also introduce a research-based framework developed by Harvard University Professor Danielle Allen called 10 Questions for Changemakers.

Essential and Guiding Questions

  • What tools are available to young people who feel marginalized to help them influence the thoughts and actions of others?
  • What does effective civic action look like? What makes some civic action successful, while other civic actions have less impact?
  • When you are too young to vote, how can you make your voice heard?

Teaching Activities

Part 1: Reflecting on Civic Action

  1. You might begin by asking students to reflect on one of the essential questions for the lesson. You could do that by asking students to do a think-pair-share on one of the questions or to choose one of the questions to discuss them in a small group.
  2. The goal of the questions, and the discussion, is to reflect on student agency. Students often feel disempowered, many believe they cannot make a difference because of their age, or because the groups they belong to are marginalized. However, it is important for young people to see models of participation.

Language arts teachers often talk the way mentor texts can help young people build strong writing habits, stories of civic action can serve a similar purpose. They can provide examples that can inspire young people to learn from and discover their own civic agency. Therefore, after discussing student responses to the essential questions, we will consider to one powerful example of student voice: The Quinceañeras at the Capitol.

Part 2 :The Quinceañeras at the Capital

  1. Briefly describe the story of the Quinceañeras at the Capital to your students and then ask them: how would they know if the protest was successful? What would they use to evaluate the effectiveness of the action? You might show students them the two minute embedded video from Fusion.
  2. In sharing stories of civic action, often the strategic and tactical choices get lost. Indeed, it can sometimes feel like people didn’t make any choices at all. What happened, happened. That is never true. There are large and small choices that people make all the time, in fact, we make so many choices in our lives that we are often unaware of the choices that we made. In teaching about civics, it is important to make the choices of civic actors transparent so we can learn from the stories of people who have worked to make a positive difference in their communities, nations, and the world in the past, present, and future.

One framework to capture, reflect on, and evaluate the choices that changemakers make is 10 Questions for Changemakers. Many people find the 10 Questions framework self-explanatory, others prefer an introduction to the questions, such as this seven-minute excerpt of Danielle Allen speaking about the framework to teachers. Another way to introduce yourself to the 10 Questions for changemakers framework is through this short study guide. We will use the 10 Question to explore the strategic decisions made by the participants in the Quinceañeras at the Capitol protest.

  1. Students will explore the Quinceañeras at the Capitol story through a text set of four online articles. The articles all include wonderful photography as well as video. Make sure students spend time with these images, you can either introduce them to the whole class and focus on a few select images or simply prompt students to recognize that the images are an essential part of the story.
  2. If it were my class, I would likely divide the students into groups of four or five and ask students to choose one of the articles to read. You might do this as part of a jigsaw, where students first gather in expert groups or just have students report back to the others in their group on what they learned. To focus the discussion on the strategic and tactical choices made by participants in the protest, ask each group to use what they learned to fill out the graphic organizer from the end of the 10 Questions for Changemakers study guide.

Part 3: Evaluating the impact

  1. When the groups have completed their work, gather the students in a large group and return to the essential questions for the lesson:
  • What tools are available to young people who feel marginalized to help them influence the thoughts and actions of others?
  • What does effective civic action look like? What makes some civic action successful, while other civic actions have less impact?
  • When you are too young to vote, how can you make your voice heard?

How do they think the 15 women who participated in the protest would answer those questions?

2. Why do your students think the quinceañera protests captured so much media attention? Do your students think the protests would have been able to influence the thoughts and actions of others who might not have agreed with them ahead of time? Might the protests have helped them gain allies in their cause?

3. If you are looking to continue the conversation, consider facilitating a barometer discussion with the prompt: Was the quinceañera at the Capitol Protest successful? In what ways?

[1] The educational focus of this lesson is on the voice and civic actions of the young women who choose to speak out against a law they perceived as unjust. Our goal here is to consider the relationship between civic action and identity and not to debate the law. Indeed, at the time of publication, only parts of the law have been implemented while legal arguments over the law play out in the courts.