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Alex Sierra Is Peoria's Youngest Public Official. Here's What Motivates Him To Serve

Alexander & Kimberlee: Motivating Mass Movements

Alex Sierra is the youngest public official in Peoria. At age 22, he is the newest member of the Peoria Park District Board of Trustees, serving the Southern District.

He talked to student reporter Olivia Streeter about why he's motivated to serve the public.

ALEX SIERRA: Well, I would say my initial interest has started as community organizing. I started in 2015. My first community organizing event was 'Ramily' Thanksgiving at Manual Academy, which is now Manual High School. But myself and an administrator, Miss Cox, had an idea that we wanted to re-engage families within the schooling system. We had noticed that student participation was really low, and parental participation was really low as well. So the goal here was to really address the roots instead of the symptoms. Which is why we need to get parents involved, and by getting parents involved, we will get their children to be involved as well. And ever since then, Manual has now adopted the term "Ramily," which I'm all for it. And they still continue to have 'Ramily' on Thanksgiving to this day.

And since then, I pretty much continued to do community organizing. My first public position was a student board member on Peoria Public Schools. first of three, along with Aleja Bates from Central and Elizabeth Lindqwister from Richwoods. I had then proceeded on to the University of Illinois, where I had continued to do things that were of interest. So I indulged in Student Council, sat as the executive assistant to our first Muslim and Black woman's student body president. And then I started as a delegate for the Association of the Big 10 Schools.

I had launched a nonprofit in November as well, called Peoria Votes. So my nonprofit focuses on organizing on the dimensions of politics and teaching the literacy of civic participation in democratic literacy. It's really just focused on bridging each corner of the Peoria area. But we're going to launch youth programming focused on teaching youth how to build sustainable campaigns.

So that's all to say, my first interest in public service really started from a community organizing position. And it still is that way, which has now led me to this position as a trustee. I really saw an opportunity for myself as someone who has communal ties to ignite a new generation of leadership.

I currently sit as the youngest public official in the city of Peoria, and also served as the youngest trustee in the history of Peoria, which is, you know, a great, a great honor. But it's historic to know that I won't be the last. So you know, the goal is to ultimately ignite a new generation of leadership, and spark other young individuals who have aspirations of purely bettering the Peoria area to obtain these leadership positions that are obtainable to them.

OLIVIA STREETER: All of that leading into, you know, your relationship with a community and things like that. What would you say to people explaining, why is it important to be involved in your community, especially cleaning and public service and things like that?

ALEX SIERRA: Well, I mean, municipal governance is the governance that has a direct impact, municipal governance can change things at a drop of a pin. So my message to other individuals, is municipal governance and civic engagement within the local level, is just as important as the community events that we want to organize around in the social issues that we want to bring attention to in our localized community, local legislation really could impact. How much property taxes that we have, what is the routine of our neighborhoods being well kept, who is actually reflective of the demographics that are represented in our city, etc, so forth. So I mean, my overall message is local elections are just as if not more important as federal and statewide elections.

OLIVIA STREETER: In your new role, what do you hope to accomplish? What are some of the main goals that you, you know, where do you see this position taking you and taking the city of Peoria?

We are in a very strong place as a board at being the largest and oldest park district in the state of Illinois. I am really altruistic, you know, I'm really goal-oriented and mission-driven. So if it does not relate to innovation, connection, sustainability, creation, or hope, I tend to not get myself wrapped up in it, and it's not that I don't care about other things, you know, it's just that these are things that I know, really drives my passion and drives my work.

Peoria has faced many pandemics prior to COVID. And one of them is the connection to technology, so in my role as a park district, we want to encourage the going, the playing, the living, and the connection, most importantly, the connecting, you know, so I really want to help folk, get disengaged from a technological stance, and re-engage with the in-person like, activity. And verbal communication, I do think that is one of the strongest things that will work to build a Greater Peoria area, by getting people to actually have a connection with folk.

I know, my presence itself isn't going to do that. And my words themselves aren't going to do that. So I need to live by example. I need to be getting out and going, you know, and also, most importantly, I need to be inviting people into these spaces. I don't want to make this a political role either, because, again, this is supposed to be a nonpartisan position, you know, so my only goal is to make sure that everyone who wants to be involved, can and will be involved. Accessibility is the goal here.

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