September 2, 2019

At age 16, high school student Jesus Villalba Gastelum shares what he and other youth leaders are organizing the September 20, 2019 Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles. Jesus stepped into the role of organizer just seven months earlier. His story is a real inspiration of how individual action makes a big difference. 

Latino Youth Leader: Jesus Villaba Gastelum

In the second semester of his junior year of high school, Jesus Villalba Gastelum was taking the second semester of a Marine Biology class. At first, he was hearing about issues impacting polar bears, penguins and deforestation. 

That prompted, Jesus to dive in and research on his own. He soon discovered the aspects of climate injustice for black and brown communities in LA and beyond. As a Latino youth who came here as a child from Mexico, Jesus realized that this was personal and something his family and community were being affected by.  

"It was a moral responsibility to try to fix what was going on," said Jesus. "This is something that is really close to me and that's why I started organizing." 

In Latino culture, especially in Sinaloa, Mexico, when the male figure is compromised or is no longer with the family, the eldest male family member is then responsible for caring for the mother and younger siblings. 

"It's been ingrained in me from when I was born. How will I take care of my mom and younger brothers?" This includes Jesus' youngest brother who is now 4 years old and has autism.  

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Launching "Youth Climate Strike LA"

"Fun fact. Youth Climate Strike LA started on the 28th of February," said Jesus. "We had 15 days to plan for the March 15 strike, which as the first global strike that LA participated in."

In mid-February, 2019, Jesus began looking for where he could sign up to attend a climate strike in LA. Realizing that nothing was planned for LA, Jesus was mortified. That spurred him to go ahead and register an event for LA and began building out and reaching out on social media. 

Through these efforts, he found three other people. They met in a cafe in South Pasadena. Together, the four organizers coordinated the March 15, 2019 Youth Climate Strike LA with approximately 1,000 youth attending. 

The team now includes approximately 12 organizers, along with 20 ambassadors. The ambassadors reach out to individual high schools and other communities to spread the word. 

YCSLA StrikeMarch 15 Opening Prayer Tongva

The opening prayer was delivered by Tongva representatives at the March 15 Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles at Los Angeles City Hall. 

"Future Coalition": Organizing at All Levels

In August, 2019, 40 young activists from across the country gathered for a training in Boone, Iowa in preparation for the September 20 climate strike. Youth activists "laughed, cried, sang and shared the future we envision", in the three-day training sponsored by Future Coalition

Future Coalition is a national network and community for youth-led organizations and youth leaders. The Future Coalition's mission is to  collaboratively share resources and ideas, all with a common goal of making the future a better, safer, and more just place for everyone.

Future Coalition includes Youth Climate Strike, the Sunrise Movement, This is Zero Hour, March for Our Lives, and others. Future Coalition supports national, state, and local organizers like Jesus. 

Sep 20: Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles

Youth Climate Strike LA is asking people to join them on September 12, 2019 from 12 pm to 3:30 pm. The strike will begin in Pershing Square, beginning with music and speakers, then march to Los Angeles City Hall, and end with more music and speakers. 

The route will pass by Grand Central Market, the Department of Water and Power, and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center. 

The speakers are chosen to represent people from different backgrounds, especially youth and those whose voices are often not heard. Speakers include climate refugees and those impacted by "community drilling", drilling that is located near homes and schools. 

"Speakers, music, food, fun, and solidarity," said Jesus. That's what the strike is all about. "We're excited because we're working with so many different organizations to make it happen." 

The group will continue to hold monthly climate strikes outside Los Angeles City Hall, on the 2nd Friday of each month, beginning again in October 2019.

YCLSA Strike June 14

Youth Climate Strike LA shows up monthly outside LA City Hall to continue to raise awareness and hold city government accountable. (Photo from June 2019) 

YCSLA Demands

Demands: What Are We Striking For?

Youth Climate Strike LA's demands concur with the national Youth Climate Strike demands, focusing on a holistic approach with a just transition that works for all. 


  1. Upgrading of the current electric grid
  2. Investment in green technology and development
  3. No creation of additional fossil fuel infrastructure
  4. Green New Deal
  5. Creation of a Committee to Oversee the Implementation of a Green New Deal
  6. Laws passed based on scientific research
  7. National Climate Emergency Declaration
  8. Compulsory Education on Climate Change Grade K-8, including impacts of climate change and importance of climate justice
  9. Preservation of public lands and wildlife
  10. Protection of water supplies

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Los Angeles is Leading the Way

The city of Los Angeles is ahead of the curve in taking action to meet these demands, already:

  • In 2018, Los Angeles passed a climate emergency motion.
  • In April 2019, Mayor Eric Garcetti released a Green New Deal for the city, putting the metropolis on course to become carbon neutral by 2050.
  • In July 2019, the City Council passed legislation to hire a Climate Emergency Mobilization Director and establish a Climate Emergency Commission.

How Can Adults Be Effective Allies?

What is the best thing adults can do? How can we be helpful without overreaching?

"The best thing adults can do is really listen to the message that youth are trying to give," said Jesus. If we are all fighting for the future, well, youth is that future so their voices need to be heard. 

"In the U.S., youth aren't necessarily prioritized and aren't given a voice," said Jesus, referencing the minimum age for voting and holding office. There are movements afoot to decrease those. 

"Right now, we have very limited political power," said Jesus. The purpose of these big demonstrations is to get the attention of the adults and get them to act now: to vote, to participate in the climate strike, to become active in government and to do so now, in this period of time before today's youth are able to take those positions of power themselves. 

How Can I Participate?

The goal is to build awareness and solidarity.  There are many ways to participate:

  • Attend or organize an event near you. Start with to search for or register an event. 
  • Share information and images on social media, or talk with your family, friends and coworkers. 
  • Listen to the speakers and messages of the youth.
  • Learn and discuss.
  • Vote for climate action.
  • Get involved in your government.
  • Take action in your community.

Contact Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles

Strike and... Form a Local Team

It can be crushing to participate in a march then come home, wondering... what next?

Joan's Tip:

Plan ahead to leverage the energy from the march to take the next steps. Form a team and start working on something locally

Check out the free resources at to get started. By getting together, you can make a difference and as importantly, feel better. 

Quotable Words

It takes a lot of ordinary people to make something extraordinary.

- Jesus Villabla Gastelum

GTA 061 Jesus Villalba Gastelum Youth Climate Strike LA

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About the author 


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