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07/20/2019 | Organizing for Education Justice

YOUTH LEADERSHIP: Youth Speak Out At The People's Convention

Young people were represented during all of the major moments throughout the convention including during the opening plenary, throughout the federal agenda ratification process, asking questions of leading political figures, at the rally, and more. 

The convention kicked off with an opening plenary with leadership from our network. Cendi Trujillo Tena, the Organizing Director of Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT) a youth of color organization, joined the plenary to discuss the importance of building youth power across the network. She was joined by CPDA’s Co-Executive Directors Jen Epps-Addison, Ana Maria Archila, Working Families Party’s National Director, Maurice Mitchell, and Detroit Action’s Executive Director, Branden Snyder. 

A central aspect of the People’s Convention was a collective process to review and ratify CPDA’s Federal Platform. Throughout the presentation of the federal platform members of the network spoke powerfully about the importance of fighting for the variety of issues covered on the platform. Gennesy Jimenez a youth member at Make the Road New Jersey, shared the powerful work she has been doing with other young people in NJ to fight for teen workers. She shared her own experiences as a teen worker and all the ways young people are fighting back. The federal platform passed the network unanimously.  

Members of YERR also had the opportunity to ask Senator Sanders, Senator Warren, and Secretary Castro questions about voting rights and accessibility, adequate and affordable housing, and the school-to-prison-pipeline. The questions youth asked allowed other attendees of the People’s Convention to consider how different candidates’s policies could improve their lives and impact the policies for which they are fighting.

Nia Arrington from OnePA asked Senator Sanders about the school-to-prison pipeline. She shared that police in schools made her, and young people in her community, less safe: “At the end of the day, we are young people. The way that we are being dealt with by police in our schools, because of our race, is dehumanizing, stressful, and takes us away from the pathway that we need to thrive.” She asked that the Senator end the federal COPS program, which has funneled more than a billion dollars into schools, mainly to add police and infrastructure like metal detectors. The Senator committed to meet with young people across the country to discuss the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Blanca Callazo, a member of LUCHA, asked Julian Castro questions regarding his plans to protect and expand voting rights to youth, immigrants, people of color and those impacted by the criminal justice system. After asking these questions, Blanca reflected, “I felt as though I got to know more about Julian Castro, his beliefs and the beliefs of others who were asked questions.” This event also allowed the youth to feel empowered. It gave them a chance to voice their concerns and have their voices be heard. Blanca shared, “This event definitely gave me confidence, it also challenged me as an individual to do things I could have never imagined myself doing, especially as we are approaching the year of 2020. I also want to highlight that my team saw me step up in my leadership and that inspired them to also step up their leadership as well and participate in the activities.”