Photos and story by Marissa Vang, captions by Alex Salas from We’Ced Youth Media.
On June 23, I got on a bus with dozens of other young people and headed to Sacramento for Youth Advocacy Day, which was sponsored by Building Healthy Communities (BHC). This wonderful three day trip included about 50 youth and adult allies together.
The aim of Youth Advocacy Day was to educate young people about what goes on at the capitol and to give us a chance to talk directly to legislative officials. It was our chance to put the youth agenda in front of our representatives.
Because of my involvement in The kNOw Youth Media, Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) and Women Empowered, I was encouraged to go. I was most excited to get the chance to see the capitol up close and get a feel for what goes on inside the huge, white building. Aside from just seeing the capitol up close and personal, I was stoked and a little nervous to get the chance to talk to legislative officials in their own offices, while advocating for youth needs and telling some of our stories.
When we got to Sacramento, we first stopped by the California Museum. I appreciated the chance to understand what California and its people have been through. The museum had a interesting history exhibit about Japanese Internment camps as well as an exhibit called “California’s Remarkable Women,” which was definitely my favorite. It was inspiring to see what California women did to change the state, and the world.
Later that day, we got to check into our hotel and meet our roommates. I liked that my roommate wasn’t from Fresno. She was from Merced and so we traded stories about the differences and similarities between our two hometowns.
That evening an amazing organization called Brown Issues led a workshop. They had really knowledgeable speakers and I definitely took a lot away from the workshop, such as their “Three Rules of Life,” which were summed up as “self-transformation,” “birds of a feather flock together,” and “it’s bigger than you.” “Self-transformation” is the act of reflecting on yourself and understanding what you can do to make yourself better. “Birds of a feather flock together” is a phrase that reminds me that the friends I choose reflect my own life and choices. “It’s bigger than you” reminds me that my actions affect the whole community.
We were also encouraged to always tell ourselves “I got this!” which came in handy since the day had been a long one. We finally went to bed.
Day two was the official Youth Advocacy Day. In the morning we researched the politicians we would be meeting before heading to the capitol and going through thorough security. My group and I first talked to Assemblyman Henry T. Perea.
We had talked about an increase in youth employment for a few minutes when he asked if he could take us on a tour. Of course we said “yes!” We visited the very green Assembly Chamber, then the very red Senate Chamber and then got to check out some areas of the capitol that the public isn’t usually allowed. We finished the meeting by taking a selfie with Asm. Perea.
In my group’s meeting with Assemblyman Jim Patterson, we really got the chance to advocate for the changes we want to see in our community. Many youth talked about why they felt a need for more park funding, especially in areas where people of color live.
I talked about the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) and the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), two laws which direct state funding into local schools, with Asm Patterson. I learned about a proposed bill that requires that schools post an electronic rubric on their website, showing how much they spent and where they spent it. This is definitely a bill I would like to see passed so we can see exactly how our tax dollars are spent on schools.
Then we spoke to one of Governor Brown’s staff members, Randall Winston, about the need for more youth jobs and more funding for Central Valley parks. Shortly after, we got the chance to have a panel discussion with four people, including a lobbyist. Many students took advantage of this and asked the panelists questions about how they came to work in politics. To close out the day, we got the chance to meet Governor Jerry Brown and took a group picture with him.
After this, we went back to our hotel and many young people took a plunge in the awesome pool.
On the last day, we ate breakfast then walked to the capitol to sit in the Assembly Chamber to observe a bill being discussed and eventually passed. Then, we packed up our things onto the bus and headed back home. Some youth were busy saying goodbye to all the new friends they had made and many others just wanted to catch up on sleep.
I am grateful to have gotten the chance to talk to state officials face-to-face about the changes I would like to see in my community. I definitely left with a better understanding of how the capitol runs and how hectic it is at times when it comes to passing a bill.
Thanks to this trip, I am becoming better educated about the political field and our government in general as well as feeling inspired that my voice was heard in the California capitol. Now we need to make sure that youth voices continue to be heard, even in the capitol.
Listen to Marissa Vang discuss this trip with Kody and Crew- The kNOw’s radio program.