If 18-year-old Clara Nunez could control the city government, she would try to do something about the high number of black and Hispanic defendants filtering through court for crimes such as stealing.
Susana Pineo, 16, conceives of a local government that would solicit suggestions from immigrants to make them feel welcome.
Eighteen-year-old Derrick McCoy believes the first order of business for a city should be to adequately employ its youth.
Thinking is not doing, as anyone's grandmother could tell you. But 15 youths who are combining thinking and doing hope that they will help improve the D.C. government while keeping busy for the summer.
The youths gather each morning at the Office of Latino Affairs to embark on a journey that takes them to multi-cultural sections of the city and vocational centers around the Mount Pleasant and Adams-Morgan communities to talk to young people about a variety of issues, including youth unemployment.
They are part of New Horizons, a summer job program designed for Hispanic youths. The youths in the program constitute only a fraction of the more than 200 Hispanic tennagers who want summer jobs.
A few things make this program different from any other in the city. The instructors speak mainly in Spanish and the participants come from many places, including the Dominican Republic, Panama, El Salvador, New York and Los Angeles. The youths work out of a carpeted back room of La Cruz Roja Americana (the American Red Cross) clinic at 2433 18th St. NW.
Youngsters in the New Horizons program began interviews this week. They have 50 questions and must find 250 youths in the area to answer them. Questions range from why teen-agers believe they are unemployed to what the young people expect from the city and how blacks and Latin Americans communicate in the city's neighborhoods. Answers, when compiled, will be given to government officials.
Youths involved in New Horizons have a fervor that rivals that of a rookie at the start of a big sports event.
"I'm learning a lot," said 20-year-old Elba Bonilla, born and raised in El Salvador. Bonilla, who is 7 months pregnant, said she never knew the meaning of the word "horizon" until she joined the program.
"It made me feel very small because I realize now how much there is to see and learn. It's a very significant word," she said.
Days are spent in classes at the Multicultural High School learning English as a second language and other career development skills. The afternoon's activities include attending a training session on how to interview, what questions to ask and how to approach someone for information.
Clemenzia Rodriguez, outreach coordinator for New Horizons, said one of the most important aims of the program is to expose the youths to something new every day. "We're teaching them about leadership. We're teaching them that they have access to these people and not to be afraid of them."
To keep the interest alive, program counselor Jose Sueiro said the group changes sites, invites different speakers and plans to invite the mayor to the last day's event for a review of the summer's results.
"We want people to understand how valuable their answers will be," said Carolina Hunt, a Panamanian. "We plan to give (the results) to the mayor."