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SUSD'S Patrick Robles Profiled in national youth multimedia project
DECEMBER 3, 2018 / MODIFIED JAN 15, 2019 09:14 AM

By Mary Katzke, reset4change

November 29, 2018

Patrick makes me feel like a Nordic giant when I walk beside him, but make no mistake in underestimating his stature in his community. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with him for two hours. I feel like this young man is a man to watch. #reset4change

Patrick (“Prezident Robles”) Robles was born in Tucson, raised on Southside, in a neighborhood 97% Hispanic. All four of his grandparents are first generation Americans who saw better opportunities for their own children in America.

“America was much more welcoming then,” Patrick says carefully. His father is a supervisor at a collision center, and his mother is a ‘medical assistant’ because, “Here in our school district, they can’t afford to hire full-time nurses so she does the job of a nurse, but doesn’t have a degree.”

When he graduates in May, 2019, he will be a first generation college student.

Patrick experienced bullying in elementary school, not because of his race, but because he is outspoken. “I’m the one who gets out on the dance floor,” he says proudly. When he was bullied in 3rdgrade, he told his mom what happened. “You don’t mess with Mexican mothers!” She met with the principal and found out he was bullying other kids, and charges were pressed on the other student’s behalf. They stopped him.

“It was the first time I saw the power of standing up for myself.”

Within two years Patrick was organizing the student body to fight for better food in the cafeteria. “Our beans were nasty- purple in color. Every single Tuesday, nasty tasting and looking, purple beans. We got them to change the menu to better tasting, more nutritious pinto beans.”

Patrick went to sixth grade at Challenge Middle School. The first week of school, they asked if anyone would be interested in serving in the house of representatives in the U.S. government. “I go and see this lady with crazy hair- Norma Jean Higuera- and I credit her with changing my life. She saw my writing and history skills- I wasn’t taking honors courses but this got me on that track.”

Higuera encouraged Patrick to join We the People. They studied the constitution – rights and responsibilities of citizens. From there on out there were many teachers and family members who have contributed to Patrick’s life. “They discovered my passion and elevated it. I came to the consensus that We the People are the true rulers of this country, if we decide to do so. We decide to take part in public life and vote, we decide to be informed. The course of this country relies on our willingness to vote, and vote smart- and standing up for others.”

After that, “I ran for class president in middle school and won. Student body vice president, junior year-then this year I’m student body president.”

The State of Arizona is 49thin teacher pay, as well as ranked 49thnationally in quality of education.

“I think that is preposterous. The governor has TV ads saying how economically successful Arizona is, but we have lost so many good teachers because of low pay. I was good at math in sixth grade, 7thnot, 8thgrade I struggled, 9thgrade I really struggled. Educators filled in the positions of quality teachers. Lack of funding connects to lack of quality of education experience.”

The students have been doing their part. “We’re waiting for our government to do theirs

We had a mass awakening in April. Our teachers went on strike for a week and a half. I was out there picketing with our teachers- there are so many more students like me who are concerned and want to get involved- it takes more than just this Southside kid.”

They need to demand a better education. “We’re with all students on this issue. It is going to take voting- middle aged, people of color, women, minorities.”

Why do you think they are not voting now?

“When I was registering people to vote, some were very hesitant due to the electoral college.  They believe even though they are voting, their vote won’t matter. We also have a lot of money infiltrating our political system. I believe that people are looking at the news and getting terrified. They see stuff that was protected under previous administration that is now being demolished.”

“It starts with one conversation at a time- motivating people to vote on the issues they care about. I’m teaching 18-year-olds if we don’t vote, those politicians won’t care about us- we have to show them we care, and then they will care. My own parents didn’t vote frequently until I got involved.”

What are those folks waiting for you to care about?

I’ve addressed my feelings about education- that lack of funding for teachers results in lack of good education for students. College should be near to free. Right now, it’s $12,000 a year. No none living around me can afford that.

What about current immigration issues?

I care very deeply about immigration issues. This is a school that is 97% Hispanic/Latino- there are a ton of folks who are on DACA status. Some have no documentation at all and can’t even apply. They are probably more American than I am. One of my good friends graduated- an incredible student and student leader- is undocumented. She couldn’t even get into a great college because of her status

The fact that the government labels her prevents her from reaching her potential. This un-American. At the end of the day, people are people. The people who are being affected by our president’s rhetoric are people I walk alongside every day. I think it’s a fear-based thing – it’s politicians who have been able to steer the conversation in this country to so politically polarized one ideology we can’t have a conversation without getting pissed off at each other. How about the goal being betterment of our country as a whole?”

What are your long-term goals?

 I want to studying Public Policy and Management. Five years from now- I’m hoping I’ll be sitting on the school board of my school that I’m attending right now. When I launch a career in public service, I want start right here with the people who believed in me. Ten years from – I see myself serving in state legislature as a representative from my area- District Two. God-willing, the Senate after that. The age limit is 26 to be a state legislator. My interest in running for office isn’t because it’s cool, it’s because I believe service is our fee for living. This is our world and I believe everyone should do their part to contribute to the common good.”

“I’m hoping a Blue Wave comes in 2020.  I’m hoping that those who are elected grow the guts to do what’s right once they get sworn in in January. That they have the courage to stand up for people. It will take people willing to have empathy again- to feel for one another.”

Some of Patrick’s accomplishments:

Represented his school at superintendent advisory meetings

Presented on the Importance of Systems Thinking and Upstream thinking

Addressed the marching army of protestors who went to the state capital

Member of the Tucson Teen Congress

Interned with his county supervisor

Currently, advocating for and working with the Coalition of Southside Students for Change

Recently lead efforts for crosswalk renovations