By Sandra Muniz, former HOPE Youth Action Board member
On Sunday night of February 21st, I arrived in Washington D.C as a youth alumni of HOPE Collaborative, with my team mate and now friend Sarah Ting. We checked in to the Marriott hotel and were given hospitality right away. We felt anxious for our planned day the next day that would be scheduled by the Pew Charitable Trusts that had also supported our needs and took care of the logistics of the flight.
We began the next day at 8 am with delicious healthy food provided by Pew. A guest speaker taught us new comers on the details of the bill that was being proposed to the Senate and Congress, while the more experienced team mates like Jennifer and Sarah gave Liannetta and I more of an insight of how we would be giving our pitch to our Representatives and Senators of California. While having workshops, walking around D.C, learning about Pew and meeting new people from different states such as Colorado, Montana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, I – as young adult – was in a room full of adults that wanted to make a difference in the health policies of each state that had their own concerns like California and an impact on healthy eating for the youth younger than me. I felt strongly motivated and as if I was making a change through my voice and actions because as a youth who has gone through the process of being a youth who complained about the food in the cafeteria, who once felt like I did not have a voice or a say in the change, I felt more compelled over the meetings because I had become not only an adult who has a voice but an individual given the opportunity to make a huge change in my community. As the day proceeded I learned more on how this bill not only would fund California Thursdays but would also give funding for the cafeteria workers that needed new equipment to make healthy food for the students of each district. This bill wouldn’t only impact youth from rich parts of California but students that came from low-income communities; the bill would reach even cities who are not even in the maps because each district would be given funding with certain jurisdictions.
At the end of the day we were given time to explore the city and many of the beautiful sites that D.C has. Being out of Oakland, and out of California was a huge step for me. I was anxious but pumped with adrenaline because it was a new experience where I could grow as a young adult. I saw how the streets of D.C worked and how people had a different vibe than those of Oaklanders. It felt climatic for my own self because I had never left California.
Our second day in D.C was even more exhilarating because my team went to 3 different offices, which were Senators Boxer and Feinstein, and Representative Lee. Although we were unable to meet with them in person, I still felt impacted by the trip for being able to be in that space, in their office knowing I’m making a change bigger than just my district. Although our trip ended at 5pm because of our flight, I was able to see monuments including President Roosevelt’s and Martin Luther King, Jr., go to some of the museums and eat yummy food. Rethinking my trip, it was an amazing opportunity given to me by HOPE Collaborative not only as a youth that was given the privilege to make an impact on my community but an experience that helped me as an individual grow.