This summer, the teens participating in our Youth Advocacy Program had the exciting opportunity to take a trip to Washington, D.C. with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America national Youth Advocacy Group. Participants from all over the U.S. were able to come together to exchange ideas, and learn first-hand how they can make a difference.
The purpose of this national program is to show kids and teens how to become their own change agents and advocates by elevating their voices on the issues that matter most to them. Over the past 11 months, our Delaware youth have been working hard to research and educate themselves and others on the topics that mean the most to them including gun violence, mental health and wellness, school reform and environmental justice. After, these young advocates then held townhalls and small groups to discuss the issues with Sen. Chris Coons as well as their local mayors. After nearly a year of learning and growth, they joined over 250 other participants in D.C. as part of the national program.
In D.C., our Delaware youth met with other Youth Advocacy Program participants to discuss ideas and projects. They learned that many of the issues they were researching were part of larger problems found across the U.S. After spending time with Youth from other states in a thinktank, our young Delaware advocates took a tour of the capital. Accompanied by the Senator’s aides, our youth visited the House and Senate using the underground tunnels. After lunch, they met with Senator Carper before then meeting with Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and presenting their ideas. One student, Angelina, spent the past year learning about human trafficking after learning that several girls in her local community were victims. She was able to use this time with our elected officials to ask about what future legislation would help to combat human trafficking in her community. Others asked about efforts to protect the environment on the Chesapeake, and what ideas they had about combating gun violence in Wilmington. Our youth used their time to advocate for their causes, confidently addressing the issues they saw in their communities with the individuals who had the ability to vote and make a difference.
Our Youth that attended the conference came away with not only a better understanding about how advocacy works, but also with the opportunity to have their voices heard. This hands-on experience and informational trip helped to teach participants that that not only does their voice matter, but that they have the power to make it heard. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware is excited to be a part of the Youth Advocacy Program, and can’t wait to take our young advocates to D.C. again next year!