Photograph by Laila Diaz
Bay Area Student Activists (BAStA) is a program created and run by students from around the Bay Area to educate students on how to exercise their voting rights on a local and national scale. BAStA’s name also has a second meaning in Spanish, translating to “enough.” Created as a result of the shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, BAStA has started to work with law and policy makers in and around the Bay, mostly about school related issues. BAStA’s main goal is to show the government that students will not be silent on issues that directly affect them.
BAStA was created last year with the intention of educating students, especially seniors who will be 18 and able to vote by the midterm elections, about upcoming elections, the civic process, and activism in general.
Recently more than ever, there has been a lot of unrest among students, with so much controversy and uproar around gun control, students want to have a say now more than they ever have. Thus, BAStA gives them the opportunity to act on their feelings.
Ruby Baden-Laser, the co-creator of BAStA, was inspired to act after seeing the student activism after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting. “Our immediate goal is to mobilize young voters to make educated decisions in these upcoming midterms,” she said. “Our overarching goals are to allow passionate students to have their voices heard on a local, state, and national level.” BAStA hosts large events relating to current issues in the district, county, and state frequently. At these events there are tables for different organizations that work to get students involved in politics. At the most recent event about the upcoming midterms BAStA coordinated the event so candidates for school board, city council, and the mayor came to speak. BAStA has also compiled large amounts of resources and information, so it is available to anybody who asks.
The head of research at BAStA, Sammy Shrestha said, “The way I see it, our primary goal is to give students a voice and to promote political engagement amongst young people.” Shrestha got involved in BAStA because he cares about “the tangible impact that informed and passionate people can make.” Everyone at BAStA is very dedicated to making a change in the way our country handles adolescents who want to speak out and be heard once and for all.
BAStA’s primary objective is to give students a voice in their community by educating youth on what is going on in the world. “Engaging young people in politics is incredibly important because it demonstrates to them that their voice matters. When someone is politically active at a young age, it carries over into adulthood too,” Shrestha said.
“When young people are educated about local and national politics, they can make more informed decisions about a wide variety of issues,” Baden-Lasar said. “These can range from where they may want to live to living a more environmentally friendly life.” Both Shrestha and Baden-Lasar hit the same point; activism as a student carries over into activism as an adult.
Since BAStA was founded, the organization has taken off. On April 20, 2018, 300 members of BAStA from different schools across the Bay Area went to the state capital as lobbyists to speak with legislators about gun violence and gun control.
“My generation has grown up in a perpetual state of fear of gun violence … by meeting with senate members and policy makers, we can make our voice heard,” said Shrestha, in an interview with KCRA.
BAStA leaders are extremely devoted to making a change in the way America values student opinions and influencing change on issues that affect them.