The Guam Youth Congress was created in 1975 by then-Senator Carl T.C. Gutierrez as a training ground for Guam’s future leaders. Today, representatives from the island’s villages and schools gather to discuss and debate issues that plague our island.
Christian Valencia, the Speaker of the House of Guam Youth Congress, believes that the organization provides the youth with an avenue to voice their concerns about issues that affect them and their communities. It gives them opportunities to take initiative in becoming civic leaders.
“The Guam Youth Congress has helped me tackle controversial issues,” he said. “The one thing that I can take away from my experience with the Guam Youth Congress so far is that working together as one deliberative body takes us to great heights, despite our differences on issues.”
Valencia always had an affiliation for civic engagement. He constantly believed that if one desires change in their communities, they must take the initiative to do so. According to him, the Guam Youth Congress has helped him with that. In the future, he hopes to continue his service to the island community, wherever that may be.
“It’s best to develop a tough skin. The fields of politics and policy may be painted as full of twists and turns, of constant trickery, but I encourage the youth to not take it personally and to fight for the issues they are most passionate about.”
Maria Dolojan, a senior at the University of Guam, depicts the motley of issues that the Guam Youth Congress focuses on in different committees: The Committee on Rules, Committee on Education and Youth Affairs, Committee on Health and Human Services and Gender Affairs, and many other more. She said, “In my opinion, our main focus is towards the current issues we are facing as an island community (i.e. lack of abortion providers, improved public education, protecting our environment, etc.).”
Her advice to those young teens who are interested in politics and policy making is to just go for it, to not hold yourself back, and to remember that change can only happen if you take that next step forward.
“Take the current obstacles and struggles you have faced (or are currently facing), and turn it into fuel that will drive you to make everlasting changes within our island community. Inspire your friends to face the issues we are currently seeing, because down the road we, the younger generation, are the ones who will face the aftermath of the issues of today.”
Tristan Quintanilla, a student at University of Guam, stated that being in the Guam Youth Congress inspire him to pursue a career in politics. He told us, “During our inauguration, we invited many of the Former Guam Youth Congress Speakers, and currently most of them are in some high-ranking government position or have gone one to lead an impressive career.”
Being in in the Guam Youth Congress, Quintanilla is exposed to many political issues—some that had some prior awareness of and others that seemed completely new to him. An open-minded individual, he simply listens to what others have to say about the issues that are brought forward and see how they favor in light of my own political philosophies
“This is not to say that I will approach all topics with an iron-clad mind intent on viewing the world through a narrow lens, I do attempt to keep my thinking flexible so as not to be an enemy to possible instances of necessary change.”
Quintanilla concluded with a very inspiring advice for young teens who are passionate about politics and the government.
“Hold onto your interest. At times it can be incredibly dry, or the things you learn can be incredibly disheartening, but no problem ever got better by avoiding it, so we need to be aware of these problems and be ready to inherit them. Otherwise when our generation’s time to take charge comes, we will have to play catch-up.”