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Piedra Vista sophomore joins youth leadership team with historic preservation group


Gabbie Gonzales planing her own 'Herstory Project'

Mike Easterling   | Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Piedra Vista sophomore Gabbie Gonzales says she is always looking for new opportunities to get involved in youth advocacy, historic preservation or political organizing.

So when she stumbled across a program that was being promoted by a national historic preservation outfit earlier this summer, she didn't hesitate to apply for it.

A month later, the 15-year-old Gonzales discovered to her delight she had been offered a spot on the 15-member Youth Leadership Team for America's Battlefield Trust, a nonprofit organization that bills itself as the nation's leading battlefield preservation organization.

"I was thrilled not only by the opportunity to pursue something I'm passionate about, which is historic preservation, but also by the travel opportunities," she said of the program. "I adore the East Coast."

Gonzales recently took part in a two-day virtual orientation as part of her duties for serving on the Youth Leadership Team. The event is usually staged in person, she said, but had to be conducted online this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But she said another event designed for members of the team tentatively is scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C., in the spring, and she already is looking forward to it.

Gonzales said she quickly identified several kindred spirits among the other members of the Youth Leadership Team as they got to know each other through Zoom meetings, group chats and social media.

"They're all wonderful individuals, and I look forward to working with them," she said.

Gonzales said she and her teammates are still identifying the parameters of their work for the trust, but she said one of the things that makes the experience intriguing is the fact that each student will select a subject and focus on that for the next year.

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The PV student wasted little time identifying her own subject of interest, quickly settling on an idea she calls "The Herstory Project" that will contrast women's history against the history of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. She believes women have been treated dismissively in many areas of history, including that of armed conflict, and she hopes her project is the start of a movement to remedy that situation.

"I want to push their narratives into the limelight, if you will," she said.

Gonzales plans on launching a website within the next month, and over the course of the year she will fill it with articles and independent research that deal with her subject.

She is already enthusiastic about exploring the role of the approximately 1,000 women who she says fought incognito in the Civil War.

"No one knows their stories or their names," she said. "I feel very much obliged to tell their stories and put names to their stories."

Gonzales acknowledged that history has been a male-dominated profession, and she believes that fact has led to women being given short shrift in historical accounts.

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But she holds various other interests, as well. In the wake of the 2016 election, Gonzales said she developed an intense interest in the political process and has since worked to make sure the voices of young people — especially those of color — are heard.

She has joined the Blue Future project, which works to connect young people to progressive campaigns. Gonzales said that experience has allowed her to connect with college students from such institutions as Yale and Georgetown.

She bristles at the commonly espouse notion that young people are disengaged from the political process and that they therefore don't deserve a voice.

"The narrative is that we don't vote and so we don't have any right to speak up," she said. "I really would like to establish that young people are not only the future, but the present of American politics."

Gonzales said the experience has taught her that there are plenty of her peers who feel the way she does.

"There are definitely a lot of young people stepping up to the plate and taking the mic," she said.

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Although she still has three years of high school left, Gonzales already has given considerable thought to her future. She hopes to attend Georgetown or Barnard College and study political science or public policy.

Beyond that, her future is less clear, although she still has plenty of ideas. She said she likely will choose between a career in law or politics — or perhaps find a field that mixes the two.

"I might run for political office, become a political strategist or become an ACLU lawyer," she said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.