Monday, July 11, 2011

Learning in Afterschool Youth Ambassadors Meet With State Legislators

By Learning in Afterschool Youth Ambassadors Naylia Sanchez and Sianna Smith, Manual Arts High School/Woodcraft Rangers

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sunrise approaches us and we prepare ourselves for the next 48 impacting hours, as the students and staff of Woodcraft Rangers at Manual Arts High School made our way to Sacramento to join our fellow Learning in Afterschool (LIA) Youth Ambassadors at California School- Age Consortium’s 7th Annual California Afterschool Challenge (CalSAC).

After lunch, we learned about the budget cuts made in afterschool and education. The speaker that had everyone moved was Director of CDE’s Learning Support & Partnerships, Gordon Jackson. Mr. Jackson made a speech that referred to his childhood, a time when he would pretend to be a super hero, wearing a cape and “fighting evil villains”. He then reminded the audience that that is what we all are, super heroes, super heroes working together for a cause and for a brighter future for generations to come. His moving speech was encouraging.

We then participated in a youth-led role-play exercise where we acted out what a successful meeting with the legislators looked like, compared to one that would be “out of control and chaotic”. To conclude our lunch plenary everyone was separated into their teams for an ice breaker activity, which shortly spread to a game that included everyone in the room to help familiarize ourselves with the processes of a bill becoming a law and a budget being passed.

After being dismissed, the Learning in Afterschool Ambassadors met upstairs where everyone was catching up. Shortly after, Michael Funk reminded us that as Youth Ambassadors we were going to be able to lead some of the policy and advocacy training. Suddenly everyone else began entering the Tofanelli Room to get started with the advocacy training. After a PowerPoint presentation reminding us of how bills and budgets are passed, the LIA Youth Ambassadors set-up for the training.

They introduced themselves and began the second portion with an ice-breaker. We laid on the floor and traced our hands. On each finger we wrote four things we were proud to have accomplished in our lives. Next we had to look at all the other surrounding hands and we had to find something that was similar and link them together. Afterwards we moved on to preparing our stories for the legislators making them friendly and most important making sure they were OUR stories.

As we brain-stormed and thought deeply about what our story was going to be, the LIA Youth Ambassadors leading the advocacy training gave us different ideas. Brain-storming along with us, they mentioned aloud some of the issues that they believed impacted all of us being in an afterschool program. Then the youth from the Champions Program led us in a quick role-play with our stories.

After the training, it was time to relax. The LIA Youth Ambassadors Core Group from Long Beach YMCA led this portion of our trip. Everyone felt the serene vibe and felt unperturbed. We ate a few snacks then we all played games together, some that required us to refrain ourselves from bursting into laughter while all the others made humorous gestures. Following the youth social we were dismissed, and we ended our day by going to dinner and resting for our big day the following morning.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Six in the morning and the alarms ring for us to wake up, but as most people, the snooze button became our friend. It wasn’t until seven that we awoke from our deep sleep to get ready for our day. By 9 a.m. we had reached the North Steps of the Capitol Building just in time for some group photos and a small breakfast. For approximately half an hour our team, met together and started discussing which legislator, assemblymen, and staff members we would be meeting with.

Our team leader, Eliza, helped us with the basics. We were going to be meeting only with the friendly staff of Assembly Member Linda Halderman, Assembly Member Tim Donnelly, Senate Member Rod Wright, and Assembly Member Anthony Portantino. The last visit that we had was just a drop-in visit with Assembly Member Betsy Butler. After being briefed, we followed our team leader inside the State Capitol to get a brief tour inside the building so that we would know where to go when it was time for our visits.

After completing our tour, we went back outside just in time for the rally that was being held. Joining us for the rally was the marching band from John Reith Middle School and a few of the state representatives that supported what we were doing. Immediately after the rally our legislative visits began and we were off. Once we completed our visits, we ended our day with another rally where we received certificates for participating and took group pictures.

From this experience we have acquired knowledge on how our state is being run. This has opened our eyes to many more innovative ideas and it has helped us boost our confidence and self-esteem. We thank the Learning in Afterschool Project and CalSAC for allowing us to be a part of this magnificent experience.

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