Santa Fe’s Viviana Garcia-Vélez is taking her passion for progress to new heights.
The 11-year-old has been chosen to serve on the Spring 2023 Junior Council for the weekly youth news magazine The Week Junior.
Garcia-Vélez said she was “absolutely shocked” after finding out she was selected.
“I knew that a lot of kids all over the country would apply, so I never expected to be chosen!” she wrote in an email.
The Week Junior is a magazine directed toward kids ages 8-14, and provides them with information regarding current affairs and issues affecting the world.
Garcia-Vélez, who is in sixth grade at Turquoise Trail Charter School in Santa Fe, was one of 12 students chosen out of a pool of hundreds of applicants to serve on the publication’s Junior Council.
Students on the council are guided by editors and mentors across various fields during their tenures. They receive research and writing assignments and gain interview experience, all while engaging with their respective communities and collaborating with each other to produce content for the magazine.
They are also encouraged to become strong voices and leaders in society.
“Being chosen for Junior Council has helped my self-esteem and it’s made me more confident to voice my opinions and concerns in daily life,” Garcia-Vélez said. “I’m most excited about writing articles with my peers for the magazine and meeting more kids that also care about making a difference in the world.”
Garcia-Vélez is Puerto Rican and bilingual in Spanish and English. She said the honor “means as much to my family as it means to me.”
“My parents are always encouraging me to push myself and try new things,” she said. “They are very proud.”
Garcia-Vélez and her family spent two years traveling North America together, exploring Yellowstone, Mount Rainier and parts of Canada, among other areas. After visiting Glacier National Park in Montana, the knowledge shared and experience piqued her concern with climate change, and her focus while on Junior Council will be directed toward addressing the issue.
“It’s an extremely urgent issue and it affects everything around us,” she said. “The problem needs to be fixed as soon as possible, which means we need more people to care.”
This year’s Junior Council will center on animals, and Garcia-Vélez mentioned she cares a lot about preserving ocelots. Due to climate change, the wild cats are becoming extinct, she said.
Climate change as a whole is one of the reasons why Garcia-Vélez pursued the opportunity to apply for a spot on Junior Council for The Week Junior.
“I wanted to apply because I thought it would be a lot of fun and I would get to learn about journalism,” she said. “That way, I can use what I learn to inspire more kids to help solve the climate crisis.”
Though climate change is on her radar at the moment, Garcia-Vélez hopes to study astrophysics and one day work at NASA, contributing to future space exploration and eventually becoming the first Puerto Rican woman in space.
“The fact that there are so many mysteries about space that are yet to be solved is fascinating to me. What I don’t know scares me, so I’m always trying to learn as much as I can,” she said. “There’s still so much to be discovered about our universe.”
Garcia-Vélez has a plan, and it goes beyond the limit of the sky. She’s already starting to take strides toward making an impact and grooming herself into the pioneer she has the confidence to become.
Garcia-Vélez and her fellow spring 2023 Junior Council students are featured in the Feb. 3 issue of The Week Junior.