October 15, 2019
Lakes4LivesLakes4Lives (Photo by Natalia Villarreal, Cypress Lakes HS)
By Karla Castillo and Zoey McCarty, Cypress Lakes HS
Oct. 15, 2019—“This is not some homework assignment.”
The words of the Red Poet Society rang true for the students who packed into the Cypress Lakes High School auditorium. A hush followed as a petite woman stepped to the podium; her powerful command of a room reflecting her decades of committed work in the political field.
On Oct. 9, former Houston mayor Annise Parker delivered the keynote address at the Lakes4Lives Civic Engagement Night. The hourlong event was hosted by the Lakes4Lives club with a special presentation by the Red Poet Society.
Parker stressed the importance of youth empowerment and youth civic engagement during her address. She espoused the need for young people to be more involved in their communities and use their considerable voices to speak up about the political issues that affect the United States and other countries around the world.
After Parker’s keynote address, attending students had the opportunity to ask her questions on a one-on-one basis.
Lakes4Lives founder Wasiq Javed, a recent Cypress Lakes graduate, reached out to Parker consistently for two years in hopes of bringing the former mayor to the campus. After planning and working through conflicting schedules, the club managed to schedule Parker.
“I try to respond to requests from student groups and women’s organizations,” Parker said. “There are certain groups I think are important.”
Lakes4Lives is an activism club with the goal of inspiring students to use their voices and make a difference within their communities. It was founded after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018 and has taken part in events such as March For Our Lives. Its hope is to be able to affect change in government and help create leaders of future generations.
“It is about going into the community and creating real authentic change,” said Kathleen Hoang, Cypress Lakes junior and Lakes4Lives vice president. “We want all these things but it’s about going out and actually doing them.”
While the process of selecting a keynote speaker for such an important event might seem daunting, Parker was an obvious choice for Lakes4Lives members. Parker was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2010.
“One-hundred percent the way [Parker] talks, she is so cathartic,” Hoang said. “She knows what she’s talking about and she can articulate in a way that is inspiring. This is just a way for high schoolers to sit down for an hour and just listen.”
In addition to being mayor of Houston from 2010-2016, Parker has a substantial political background. She graduated from Rice University in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, sociology and psychology. She served on the Houston City Council from 1998-2004. Parker’s father worked for the Red Cross, so she volunteered and served others, turning that service into a pathway into politics.
During the event, Parker spoke on the upcoming 2020 elections. She expressed importance in young people voting, saying they can create change in government policy at various levels.
“I want to see more involvement by the American people in the political process,” Parker said. “I can certainly speak about policy changes I’d like to see but I think maybe the question is directed toward why I think it is important for all of us to be involved.”
Parker advised those in attendance to become more engaged in their communities and in politics. The 18-24 voting group has some of the lowest turnout nationally.
“If you are concerned with things that are happening in this country and you are not participating, you have no right to complain,” Parker said.