From Aug. 21-25, about 20 youths and four mentors from City Heights attended the Sisters and Brothers at the Capitol Youth Conference and Advocacy Days in Sacramento. The annual trip is a part of Building Healthy Communities, a 10-year, $1 billion initiative to change the way that health happens in California. Mid-City CAN Youth Council members were vocal advocates for gender and racial justice issues. This year’s theme was “Free Our Dreams.” Jose Ortega, a 17-year-old student from San Diego High School, was among those taking part. This is his account of his experience and first interaction with California’s political system.
I decided to go on the trip because it sounded like fun to leave San Diego for a weekend, and I also wanted get to know people and possibly get to know politically influential people here for California.
The trip itself was an experience. It lasted 14 hours, so we got to Sacramento at 3 a.m. and we had to get up at 6 in the morning. The hardest part of the trip was actually staying awake the first day we were there, but other than that, everything else came pretty naturally.
The best part of the trip was, well, the entire experience! Getting to know more and more people was amazing. Everybody there wanted change. All the communities that appeared there at the Capitol building wanted something to change to benefit their communities, without thinking of the bigger picture of how their choices could affect all of California. We all learned about the large implications that small choices can have, even in City Heights, and it really inspired us to speak up about issues facing our neighborhood.
On this trip, I learned that it takes a lot more people to pass bills than I had ever imagined. I also learned that there are two different types of bills, Senate and Assembly bills. While I was in Sacramento, I visited three legislators and had the opportunity to speak with their staffs. I spoke with the offices of Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, and Gov. Jerry Brown. It was a wonderful learning experience.
The trip was an amazing experience to both learn and grow as a person.