by Meghan Patiño
Legislative Youth Action Day is founded on the belief that youth expressing their views on state government decisions is a right and necessity in order to make the best laws to govern Washington State. Most adults believe in the power youth have to positively influence their community. So why don’t we see it happening in all our communities and within all public institutions? Several reasons exist and most of them are logical (I would challenge too logical). Youth Action Day is one attempt to create a world that listens to the voice of young people.
This year 206 Forward- Youth Advocates of Seattle attended Youth Action Day better prepared to navigate the system of state politics. Members of 206 Forward connected the concerns of gun violence and youth not feeling safe in Southeast Seattle (concerns they identified through a community assessment) with current legislation. 206 Forward analyzed how racism in schools and the justice system lead to youth of color falling through the cracks, and perpetuating the violence they or their peers experience.
That’s where House Bill 1541 comes into play. HB 1541 advocates for an elimination of school suspensions and expulsions as well as support for teachers to receive funds they need to be qualified English Language Learner teachers. 206 Forward spoke to the Legislative Aide of Representative Tomiko- Santos (their State Representative) about why they support the bill. Erica Guan connected her experience of peers who have recently immigrated to Seattle not receiving the support they need in schools to integrate into the education system and the American society. Alrick Hollingsworth spoke about how he saw Black students targeted for suspensions, many of whom already are navigating several other challenges on their own such as homelessness. He advocated that students need teachers that understand them and able to meet them where they are at, not further exclude them from the school community.
Twinny Alipio also testified at the Education Committee regarding a bill that responded the teacher shortage in Washington State. Twinny highlighted the effects the shortage has on her ability to learn by sharing her experience of the school security guard (with no science background) substituting for her Biology teacher. She also expressed her concern that her school will not be able to find a substitute teacher able to teach the content needed when her teacher takes her maternity leave in the Spring. Youth Action Day, allowed 206 Forward access to share their testimony to lawmakers and let them know the importance of working toward solutions to better equip the education system to support students’ success.
Youth Action Day is an opportunity for young people to practice using their voice to influence lawmakers to make Washington a state where young people thrive. It’s also an opportunity to expose young people to the possibility of a career in public service. Our state needs more youth of color to see public service as a possibility for true representation as one state senator described the body of Washington Legislators as being too white, too old and too male dominated.
Part of the mission of 206 Forward is to provide a space where youth voice is honored and able to create impact. Youth Action Day is just one event. The question remains how to continue to create structures to build youth voice in the spaces that we occupy as community members, parents, mentors and as Seattle Parks and Recreation employees.
A major thank you goes out to all Youth Employment and Service Learning to supporting 206 Forward, as well as to World Vision and Washington Legislative Youth Action Council organizing and sponsoring Youth Action Day.
Meghan Patino is the Youth Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Youth Employment and Service Learning Unit of the Seattle Parks and Recreation.