On January 24th and 25th, seven of our amazing FEEST youth interns joined a hundred other youth-led groups in Olympia for the Legislative Youth Action Council Day. We attended workshops on how to talk to legislators and sharing your story, took a tour of the capitol, and talked with Senator Nelson and Representative Fitzgibbon about who FEEST is and why low income youth of color want to stay healthy and do not want to be marketed junk food.
We also took action and made our voices heard! The bill we supported was Sharon Tomiko Santos’ Closing the Educational Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541. Among many important demands, this bill calls for a disaggregation of student data to inform instructional strategies, cultural competancy trainings for teachers, an end to long term expulsions and suspensions, and real solutions for disproportionate discipline of youth of color.
Below is Evergreen youth leader Abla’s reflection on her experience as a recent immigrant going to a new school and why this bill is important for her life.
Did anything surprise you about the trip to Olympia?
I was surprised by the cultural groups that came. I didn’t think there would be so many youth of color. I felt happy that there was a lot of powerful youth of color, but it still felt like we were there just to attend, not actually lead the group.
What were the bills FEEST was working on? How were they connected to your experiences?
One of the bills we worked on was about Closing the Educational Opportunity Gap. The piece I talked about was how important it is to have teachers that understand different cultures. When my teacher knows my culture he can actually understand me. All my teachers are white so it’s very difficult for them to see me. I just came here last year and had to learn things very fast. I felt like I had to work twice as hard than other students. Many of my teachers were really hard on me, they would say go home and ask your parents, but my mom is the only one and she was working a lot. I felt like I needed more support but they weren’t able to give it to me.
I think it’s important to work on issues of race in education because youth of color don’t have the same opportunities as others and don’t have as much to fall back on if they get kicked out of school or drop out.
Do you think the bills were connected to what FEEST does in the community?
The bills we worked on were totally related to the work that FEEST does because everything is related. It doesn’t matter what it is, everything affects everything. If you go to school and have a teacher that doesn’t understand your culture, that can affect your future, for example last year I thought I was bad at history. I felt like giving up. I only thought that because my teacher made me feel like that was the problem, that I was the problem. Then I got a different teacher and he asked me questions about my culture, he wanted to understand me. With this new teacher I realized that I wasn’t the problem, it was that my teacher didn’t understand me and where I was coming from.