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The 19-Year-Old L.A Fútbol Star and UFW Activist Giving Back to His Hometown’s Farmworkers in Lompoc

10:03 AM PST on February 22, 2021

    [dropcap size=big]M[/dropcap]ost teenagers struggle with the coming-of-aging trials of school, part-time jobs, and managing their interpersonal relationships while trying to find their purpose in life. Los Angeles Galaxy defender Julian Araujo is not like most teenagers.

    The Lompoc, California native, completed a banner year in which he registered his first goal for the Galaxy, debuted for, and made his first assist for the USMNT, got named one of the best young players in Major League Soccer, and is reportedly being monitored by Italian giants Juventus. However, Juventus might get beaten to Araujo’s signature if the rumors of an advanced negotiation with Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur come to fruition. The London club has reportedly offered around $6 million for Araujo, and although the Galaxy have denied that the player will be leaving them for now and it is looking less likely as the year goes on, the new year might see the right-back playing overseas at some point and incredibly set him up for an even more sensational 2021 than the year he just had.

    Araujo capped a stellar 2020 by taking part in a panel on December 17th called Race and Sports: Past, Present, and Future, for the Rose Bowl Institute alongside current Dodgers World Series-winning Manager Dave Roberts, Hall-of-Fame Pro Bowl football player Eric Dickerson, and Angel City Football Club Founder and President Julie Uhrman. 

    Not bad company for a 19-year-old, or anyone for that matter.

    “It was a blessing,” Araujo said of his participation. “Just hearing all of them talk was something that I really enjoyed, something that I picked up a lot from, and just having all those people that have had a lot of success and have learned a lot during their time, it was crazy!”

    His key message is the importance of using your voice or platform, no matter the size or age, to affect change for the causes you believe in...

    Araujo didn’t seem out of his depth. However, his key message is the importance of using your voice or platform, no matter the size or age, to affect change for the causes you believe in. The panel invitation to discuss sports’ influence on broader society was undoubtedly recognition for Araujo’s work with the United Farmworkers Union (UFWU), the country's first and largest farmworkers union. 

    Last June, when the intense heat and pandemic combined to ravage central California’s agricultural community and make working conditions unbearable, Araujo and his family sent food to farmworkers in Lompoc and made sure some of our nation’s most essential and hardworking laborers were fed. 

    Workers received notes in English and Spanish that read, “When the sun rises, you go to work. When the sun goes down, you continue working. Thank you for working with your hands, your mind and your heart,” along with their meals sent by Araujo’s family.

    “It’s definitely something that I want to continue to do, have more projects, I have different things in mind to help them for the better,” said Araujo, who pointed out the lack of basic rights like low wages and lack of healthcare for the people that provide our food. “I just try to fight for them as I know the UFWF is fighting for them, and I want to be a part of that because I believe they deserve a lot better than they’ve been getting.”

    United Farm Workers Vice-President Lauro Barajas shared that monetary donations and supplies like masks and gloves have increased since Araujo’s involvement.

    Since his initial donation, Araujo has become increasingly involved in activism, donating food to hospitals, schools, and other organizations in the Lompoc area while using his platform as a professional athlete to raise awareness about the UFWU and ways for people to help.

    United Farm Workers Vice-President Lauro Barajas shared that monetary donations and supplies like masks and gloves have increased since Araujo’s involvement. Baraja believes Araujo is sending a good message for kids by getting involved in his community and not forgetting where he came from.

    “Imagine if we had more people like him,” Baraja said. “So positive, that is able to have a strong voice and have a big influence on people. A lot of people see his social media, and by showing solidarity with farmworkers, it’s a benefit.”

    He set the example for his social media followers in October by donating $1,700 to the UFWU and providing a link for those interested in donating. In November, Araujo took part in a job shadowing experience called Rompe Las Barreras sponsored by the Galaxy, Junior Achievement of Southern California, and Southern New Hampshire University to provide real-world work experience and post-graduation career advice for seniors in the Compton area. 

    As Araujo told the Rose Bowl panel, “We’re the future. We have to use our voices and advocate for what we want and just be loud. Show everybody that we want change. It’s crazy to think that we’re so young, but we get what’s happening in the world.”

    It’s crazy indeed to think that Araujo is only 19 but uses his voice and his unique platform for something larger than accomplishments on the soccer pitch, although this year, he had many on it.

    He was named to MLS.com’s best 22 under 22, earning the #12 spot, and earned his first call-ups and cap for the national team in the 6-0 win against El Salvador at the beginning of December.

    The right-back made 17 appearances (all starts), was named 2020 LA Galaxy defender of the year as the youngest member of the defense, Galaxy Humanitarian of the year, Los Angeles Riot Squad player of the year, and led the Galaxy with 3 MLS award nominations for best young player, defender of the year, and Humanitarian of the year. 

     Julian’s mother, Lupe, is the daughter of a farmworker and the wife of one as well, while Araujo has seen the effect of the harsh working conditions that farmworkers endure through his family and father’s own experience. 

    As an organization, the Galaxy has been active in backing Araujo and helping him identify ways to contribute to causes in the future. He considers himself fortunate that his Galaxy teammates support and are proud of the work he is doing as well.

    After Araujo first donated to the UFWF in June, LA Galaxy Senior Communications Manager Chris Glidden tweeted, “19-year-old #LAGalaxy defender and Lompoc native Julian Araujo continues to be an exemplary professional in his community. He has worked diligently both individually and with the club's community relations staff to find new and continued initiatives to give back.”

    Araujo, his agent, and LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano speak with the UFWU weekly to share ideas and develop projects. 

    "It’s been a great honor of mine to help him with this project," Serrano said. "As a first-generation Mexican American myself from a family like the Araujo’s, it’s been truly one of the most rewarding projects I’ve participated in with the club. I’m looking forward to more initiatives in the coming year."

    That Julian, the youngest of three Araujo children, would become involved in his community is not surprising. His parents immigrated from Mexico, his father Jorge working the fields to provide for his family, picking lettuce as his first job in the United States. Various family members, including his brother Jorge Jr., have done farm work.

    Araujo credits his father, a cancer survivor who he considers both his hero and role model, with inspiring and motivating him to adopt an insatiable work ethic.

    Julian’s mother, Lupe, is the daughter of a farmworker and the wife of one as well, while Araujo has seen the effect of the harsh working conditions that farmworkers endure through his family and father’s own experience. 

    Araujo credits his father, a cancer survivor who he considers both his hero and role model, with inspiring and motivating him to adopt an insatiable work ethic. Jorge Araujo clarified to Julian that if he wanted something, he would only get it through hard work and dedication. 

    “I think that’s one of the biggest traits that he’s taught me, is work hard for whatever you want and whatever is gonna help you in the future, and if you have a goal and you want to accomplish it, then you have to do whatever you have to do, and you have to work hard,” Araujo said.

    The young soccer star’s goal of making his professional debut as a player, which he did in front of more than 250 family members on March 16, 2019, would be the flicker that led to the flame.

    Araujo realized throughout the season that he had the platform to have his voice heard thanks to the connection he made with Galaxy supporters through social media.

    And now that her son has started to use that platform to affect more significant change in his community, Lupe is the one taking care of operations in Lompoc while Julian is in Los Angeles with the Galaxy. She also helps him plan how best to support his favored causes and the perfect timing to do so. When the social media post in June showing the terrible working conditions galvanized Julian into deciding he wanted to feed the farmworkers, it was her boots on the ground giving out the meals. 

    The soccer player and activist is now focused on developing initiatives with the UFWU for next year and on the coming 2021 season with the Galaxy. “I want to continue to grow and be a better player and person every day,” an assured Araujo shared. “And you know, if you have a team behind you, if you have your friends, the teammates that you have behind you are supporting you, I think anything can happen.”

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