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“What Helping My Father Complete the Census Taught Me” by 7th Grader Kristine Sy

  • Kristine Sy is the 1st Place winner in the 6th-8th Grade category of the Alhambra Source 2020 Census Storytelling Contest. She is a 7th grader at Monterey Highlands Elementary. Photo courtesy of Van Luong.

  • Kristine Sy is the 1st Place winner in the 6th-8th Grade category of the Alhambra Source 2020 Census Storytelling Contest. She is a 7th grader at Monterey Highlands Elementary. Photo courtesy of Van Luong.

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

The Alhambra Source 2020 Census Storytelling Contest, co-sponsored by the Alhambra Unified School District, was created to educate local students on the importance of this year’s count and give them the tools to spark census engagement in their own network. In highlighting the stories of our eight Census Ambassadors, students are given an opportunity to illustrate their unique point of view on a foundational part of community funding.

This week’s story is by Kristine Sy, a seventh-grade student at Monterey Highlands Elementary. Her story, “What Helping My Father Complete the Census Taught Me,” highlights important aspects of the census and lessons learned about and with her family. Kristine is the 1st Place winner in the 6th-8th Grade Category.

We will be publishing one of the winning entries every Thursday for the next three weeks.


What Helping My Father Complete the Census Taught Me

By Kristine Sy

Every ten years, the United States Census Bureau conducts a census. A census is a count of the population, and they have been conducted ever since the Babylonian empire in order for rulers to determine the amount of food needed for their population. These days, the census serves as a way for the government to accumulate an accurate count of the population and their socio-economic backgrounds for the coming decade. The census helps the government to determine how to distribute federal funding, draw electoral district boundaries, and so much more. It is a necessary tool for understanding the characteristics and needs of people living in the United States. The census is extremely important, and this year, I was able to learn a little more about it by helping my father complete it for the first time.

I am grateful that my family not only understands the importance of completing the Census, but also has access to technology that allows us to easily complete this. This is not a reality for many people in the U.S., especially people of color, residents of urban and rural low-income houses, and young children. In fact, the census disproportionately misses numbers of people from these groups. This is a problem because an under count could mean reductions in federal funding for critical programs. While there are some obstacles to ensuring that everyone participates, I hope that eventually everyone will be able to take part in completing and learning more about the census in order for the information that government officials receive to be as accurate as possible.

Because of the census, I have gained knowledge about my family that I hadn’t known before. For example, before the census, I hadn’t put much thought into the fact that my sister lives in a dorm at her university for the majority of the year. After completing the census, I realized that my sister was to be counted as a part of the Group Quarters Operation. The Group Quarters Operation is designed to count people who stay in a group living arrangement such as dorms, nursing homes, military barracks, and residential treatment facilities. A week before the Census takes place, the U.S. Census contacts group quarters facilities to identify administrators who can assist in counting those living in their buildings. Since my sister was already included in the population of university students at the dorm she resides in during the school year, my family did not have to count her when we completed our census. This information was something that I had never considered before, so I was curious to learn more after I completed the census. I discovered that the Group Quarters Operation extends far beyond just keeping an accurate count of people who don’t live in traditionally permanent residences. One crucial program within the Groups Quarters Operation is the Service-Based Enumeration operation. Through this initiative, the Census Bureau collects information specific to service-based locations that provide for people experiencing homelessness. These locations include soup kitchens, emergency shelters, mobile food vans, outdoor locations, and other places that homeless people are known to sleep or stay. As a result of this, the federal government is able to have information regarding the most vulnerable in our population, and hopefully take action to address the social needs of millions of people in this country.

Counting every person in the United States is an extremely complex large-scale operation that is difficult even if the best conditions are in place. Though the census has improved over the years, there is still much that the U.S. Census Bureau can do to make sure that the whole population is accounted for. Undercounted groups such as people of color, low income houses, and young children are often deterred from taking the census. In order to guarantee that these communities are counted properly, the U.S. Census Bureau should determine what makes it difficult for these groups to respond to the census and act accordingly. The census gives the government the data that it needs to provide us with resources such as hospitals, roads, schools, housing and social programs, and many other essential resources; as such, it is a crucial program that the government uses to learn more about and serve the population. I’m extremely grateful that I was able to learn more about it by helping my family to complete it this year, and I hope to continue to stay involved in the future.

Thank you for reading our story! Alhambra Source is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our newsroom reports fact-based quality journalism that educates, informs and engages our diverse communities - with no paywall. Support our mission and donate today!

The Alhambra Source encourages comment on our stories. However, we do not vet comments for accuracy or endorse links to posts in the comment section. The thoughts and opinions expressed belong solely to the author of the comment.

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