When I first found out I was going to D.C, I was shocked and happy. I keep thinking, “Really? Me?” I cried because I felt it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
For weeks, I was attending weekly conference calls with The California Endowment to prepare our small delegation of youth to attend the White House Youth Summit. At first, I felt the conference calls were a little awkward because we didn’t know each other at all, but we were going to D.C together. I was nervous also about asking questions, but it helped that the other youth also wanted to ask those same questions. You know, important questions, like “what should we wear?”
After the White House Youth Summit was cancelled due to the Boston bombings, I was very disappointed. But when The California Endowment informed us that not only would we still be going to D.C., but plan had changed so that we would be meeting with White House staff.
My first trip to Washington D.C. was to go to have one-on-one meetings with White House staff. The magnitude of that was exciting and overwhelming.
I arrived on a Thursday and attended a workshop by GlassLab: “Transformative Learning and Assessment Games You Can Trust.” GlassLab is a non-profit bringing together leaders in the commercial games industry and experts in learning and assessment to leverage digital games as powerful, data-rich learning and assessment environments. During that day, a panel discussion that included a 7th grader from Oakland named Ricardo Villalobos, was very informative. Everyone looked to Ricardo for answers and his opinion on GlassLab. I really appreciated that they were looking to a youth as an expert.
Technology and youth go hand and hand. Education in schools should also include technology. Most Long Beach youth have cell phones or at least access to a computer. They spend a lot of time on computers on social networks, so if there was a way for them to learn via computers I believe it would work. I learned that education has to adapt to the ones it trying to reach.
On Friday I attended the White House Briefing where I met with Stephanie Valencia Principal Deputy Director and Bess Evans, Public Engagement Advisor and Policy Analyst. I also met with Roberto Rodriguez who is the Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy. I asked him if they had any plans on making sure our youth get the same public education no matter where they live. I feel that no matter what zip code we live in, public education should be equal. He say they were working on it. While he didn’t go into details on the plans, the fact that he knew what I was talking about made me like people do care about low-income communities and I’m not crazy for thinking education should be equal.
We also met with the First Family’s personal chef, Sam Kass, who also is the Executive Director of the Let’s Move! and the Senior Policy Advisor for the First Lady Michelle Obama. He spoke about health and its importance and just to remember to watch your portions.
Going into the White House, I was really nervous because these are the people in charge of our government. I thought they would be really stand-offish and only talk to us about things that was were already public records. When I got there it was the total opposite. They told us about their childhood, their college life, and how they got their big break in life. I almost felt as if I knew them for years. Their stories all had a common thread: never give up, keep trying look for opportunities to do what you love and be persistent.
Then we went to Senator Diane Feinstein’s Office and meet with Chief of Staff Chris Thompson where I got the chance to learn from his story. Chris came to D.C on a summer internship and knew this is where he wanted to be. After that internship was up, he still stayed in D.C. doing odd jobs, working nights and sleeping on a friends couches for a year before he got a break on his career. His talk with us made me feel like know matter where you come from or your background, you can have a great future and be whoever you want to be. That is something I will bring back to our Long Beach youth because they need to be encouraged, and know what their future has potential. Our Chief of Staff came to
Over the weekend, I got to explore D.C. I got to see the Daughters of the American Revolution Memorial Continental Hall, The Pentagon, The National Museum of the American Indian, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Seeing the monuments up close felt like I got to touch history instead of reading it in a book. To touch the cold Korean War Memorial wall with pictures carved into it made me feel very grateful.
“Freedom is not free,” it read on a wall at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
From this trip and learning experience I took away that dreams do come true, always remember your history, hard work pays off and change for our youth is here. We should all be involved in bettering our future generation. I can’t wait to go back.
To see Alyson’s photos from her trip and to listen to some of the voices of the other youth she interviewed, watch the audio slideshow above.