• Quinceañeras at the Capitol

    Lesson Plan

Updated: June 11, 2019

Why would fifteen-year-old Latina girls hold a symbolic quinceañera right of passage celebration on the steps of the Texas capitol?

On July 2017, media from around the world flashed images of fifteen Latina young women wearing Quinceañera dresses speaking out to affirm their identities and to protest what they experienced and perceived to be a grave injustice—SB4, a Texas immigration law.

Update: Jolt Action, the group that helped to organize this protest, has a new project called Poder Quince. Poder Quince is a movement that channels the spirit of Quinceañeras to build a culture of voting and civic participation in Texas and the country. You can learn more about this work on the official website.

According to the Texas Chronicle:

“As passed, SB 4 allows local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people they detain or arrest and punishes local government department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration “detainers” — requests by agents to turn over immigrants subject to possible deportation — in the form of jail time and penalties that exceed $25,000.”

This lesson explores these young women’s motivations, personal stories, and their strategies in this civic action:

Teaching Objectives and Learning Outcomes

  • A goal of this lesson is to foster civic knowledge, skills, and attitudes, including deepening civic knowledge through reflection on a particular story of youth-led civic action.
  • Through reflection on the quinceañeras at the Capitol story, students will hone their civic skills and nurture civic attitudes by identifying the choices, both strategic and tactical, made by the young women who organized the protect.
  • Students will consider the relationship between individual and group identity and the civic choices that people make.
  • This lesson will also introduce a research-based framework developed by Harvard University Professor Danielle Allen called 10 Questions for Changemakers.

Resources for the Lesson

Quinceañeras at the Capitol ppt
Images of the Quinceañera Protest
Quotations from and about the Protesters

Essential and Guiding Questions

  • What tools are available to young people who feel marginalized to help them influence the thoughts and actions of others?
  • What does effective civic action look like? What makes some civic action successful, while other civic actions have less impact?
  • When you are too young to vote, how can you make your voice heard?

Teaching Activities

Part 1: Reflecting on Civic Action

  1. You might begin by asking students to reflect on one of the essential questions for the lesson. You could do that by asking students to do a think-pair-share on one of the questions or to choose one of the questions to discuss them in a small group.
  2. The goal of the questions, and the discussion is to reflect on student agency. Students often feel disempowered, many believe they cannot make a difference because of their age, or because the groups they belong to are marginalized. However, it is important for young people to see models of participation.

Language arts teachers often talk the way mentor texts can help young people build strong writing habits, stories of civic action can serve a similar purpose. They can provide examples that can inspire young people to learn from and discover their own civic agency.  Therefore, after discussing student responses to the essential questions, we will consider to one powerful example of student voice: The Quinceañeras at the Capitol.

Part 2 :The Quinceañeras at the Capital

  1. Introduce the Quinceañeras at the Capital protest to your students with the two-minute video from Fusion that is embedded above. You might need to check to understanding. Do the students know what the young women were protesting? Once that is clear, ask your students: how would they know if the protest was successful? What would they use to evaluate the effectiveness of the action?
  2. In sharing stories of civic action, often the strategic and tactical choices get lost. Indeed, it can sometimes feel like people didn’t make any choices at all. What happened, happened. That is never true. There are large and small choices that people make all the time, in fact, we make so many choices in our lives that we are often unaware of the choices that we made. In teaching about civics, it is important to make the choices of civic actors transparent so we can learn from the stories of people who have worked to make a positive difference in their communities, nations, and the world in the past, present, and future.

One framework to capture, reflect on, and evaluate the choices that changemakers make is 10 Questions for Changemakers.

Note: While many people find the 10 Questions framework self-explanatory, others prefer an introduction to the questions, such as this sseven-minute excerpt of Danielle Allen speaking about the framework to teachers.  Another way to introduce yourself to the 10 Questions for changemakers framework is through this short study guide. We will use the 10 Questions framework to explore the strategic decisions made by the participants in the Quinceañeras at the Capitol protest.

  1. Students will explore choices made by the participants in the  Quinceañeras at the Capitol protest through a gallery walk. A PDF of selected quotations and images from the Quinceañera Protest are embedded here. If it were my class, I would likely have the students explore the quotations and images on their own, making notes along the way to see how the choices they made correspond with the 10 Questions for Changemakers.
  2. I also find it useful to play the two songs that were played at the protest, the first one was “Somos Mas Americanos” by Los Tigres Del Norte, and the second was “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) from the Hamilton Remix Album. Note: Somos Mas Americanos is in Spanish. This could be an opportunity to have bi-lingual students help their peers by helping to translate the lyrics. The second song is in English.
  3. After about 15 minutes, encourage the students to gather in groups to share their observations with each other. In particular, ask them to note the strategic and tactical choices made by participants in the protest. If you find your students’ could use a little structure, ask them to fill out the graphic organizer from the end of the 10 Questions for Changemakers study guide as they talk. 

Part 3: Evaluating the impact

  1. When the groups have completed their work, gather the students in a large group and return to the essential questions for the lesson:
  • What tools are available to young people who feel marginalized to help them influence the thoughts and actions of others?
  • What does effective civic action look like? What makes some civic action successful, while other civic actions have less impact?
  • When you are too young to vote, how can you make your voice heard?

How do they think the 15 women who participated in the protest would answer those questions?

2. Why do your students think the quinceañera protests captured so much media attention? Do your students think the protests would have been able to influence the thoughts and actions of others who might not have agreed with them ahead of time? Might the protests have helped them gain allies in their cause?

3. Optional: After the protest SB4 has faced several legal challenges. We suggest reading these three short articles that capture the current state of SB4 and the responses of members of the law enforcement community.

Federal appeals court’s ruling upholds most of Texas’ “sanctuary cities” law, Texas Tribune, March 13, 2018

Court Ruling On Texas Anti-Sanctuary City Law Sets The Stage For More Legal Battles, NPR, March 14, 2018

Texas Banned ‘Sanctuary Cities.’ Some Police Departments Didn’t Get the Memo, New York Times, March 15, 2018.

4. If you are looking to continue the conversation, consider facilitating a barometer discussion with the prompt: Was the quinceañera at the Capitol Protest successful? In what ways?


  1. From Quinceañera to Protest: Tejana Teens Fight SB 4 Immigration Law, Latino USA, http://latinousa.org/2017/07/17/quinceanera-protest-tejana-teens-fight-sb-4-immigration-law/
  2. Meet 5 of the Tejana Teens Who Made This Quinceañera-Themed Protest a Success, Remezcla, http://remezcla.com/features/culture/meet-the-Quinceañera-at-the-capitol/
  3. Quinceañera Held at Texas Capitol Building, Teen Vogue, https://www.teenvogue.com/story/quinceanera-held-at-texas-capitol-building
  4. In Sparkly Ruffled Dresses, Quinceañeras Are About To Flood The Capitol To Protest A Texas Bill That Affects Thousands Of Latinos, Mitú, https://wearemitu.com/things-that-matter/Quinceañera-will-waltz-to-texas-capitol-to-protest-sb-4s-anti-immigration-law/
  5. Teen girls wear quinceañera dresses at the Capitol to protest sanctuary cities ban, Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com/news/texas-legislature/2017/07/19/teen-girls-host-quinceanera-capitol-protest-sanctuary-cities-ban
  6. Poder Quince: https://www.poderquince.com/

The educational focus of this lesson is on the voice and civic actions of the young women who choose to speak out against a law they perceived as unjust. Our goal here is to consider the relationship between civic action and identity and not to debate the law. Indeed, at the time of publication, only parts of the law have been implemented while legal arguments over the law play out in the courts.

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