April 2, 2018
Youth in Action
YouthAction Members Merry Parasol, Maximilius Zachariah Fielder, Jeffrey Garcia, and Yesenia Gallardo meeting with State Assemblymember Marcos A. Crespo. When Assemblymember Crespo found out that Yesenia is his constituent, he invited her to sit in his chair and told her, "I work for you."
In recent months, students from across the country have been leading a powerful activism movement to create the change they want to see. At CCC, our YouthAction Members have been participating in peer-organized national events, as well as speaking out about the state and local issues impacting their lives.
YouthAction Members are high school students from across New York City who have taken our ten-week Youth Community Leadership Course (YCLC) and decided to remain involved with CCC as peer trainers and youth activists. They travel throughout the five boroughs to coach their peers on civic engagement and effective advocacy and attend rallies, advocacy days, and meetings with lawmakers to advance local issues that are important to them.
This winter offered three separate opportunities to travel to Albany and advocate at the state level for expanded funding for the Summer Youth Employment Program, adequate money to implement Raise the Age legislation, and key priorities for children and families in the state budget. Yesenia Gallardo, a YouthAction member and sophomore at the High School for Public Service in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, attended all three advocacy days.
“I really liked meeting with elected officials and getting to practice what we’ve been learning in YouthAction,” she says. “And it was fun taking the train up to Albany – I’d never been there before!”
Yesenia decided to take the YCLC and become a YouthAction Member because she eventually wants to be a politician, and knows the skills she is learning here can help set her up to be an effective lawmaker. She hopes to be an elected official that is responsive to community needs and sets an example of working collaboratively to enact positive change that future generations can emulate.
“I’d like to see politicians give more credit to people who advocate for policies,” Yesenia said. “A lot of people spend a lot of time advocating for things they really care about, and it would be nice if politicians talked more about the people who inspire the bills they write.”
Yesenia, who took the YCLC last year in the spring semester of her freshman year, plans to stay involved with YouthAction and continue learning more about public policy and mobilizing for change. Though it can be intimidating to meet with influential public officials as a high school student, she is growing more confident with each meeting and knows these opportunities will pay off in the long run.
“The knowledge and experience I’m gaining now are making me a better advocate and will be extremely beneficial in my career,” she says.