Virginia YMCA Youth and Government
If I could have one superpower, it would be:
I’d want to be able to fly!
How long have you been thinking about making change or engaging other youth in making change?
My interest in advocacy stems from a childhood growing up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This jump started an interest in environmental advocacy and I can remember attending anti- Mountain Top Removal community gatherings from a young age. I have continued to advocate for the environment and the preservation of the natural world. Through YMCA’s Youth and Government program I have been able to connect with people my age who share similar values. Possibly more importantly, I have been able to connect with peers with values very far from my own. This environment of motivated peers with varied interests and life experiences has inspired me to engage with larger communities to create lasting change.
Have there been any particularly important moments that keep you motivated?
Yes! (more in next answer)
Do you have any stories to share about that experience?
Last winter I was phone banking with a local nonprofit Appalachian Voices to raise awareness about an upcoming event protesting the construction the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Talking to people who were deeply concerned about how these pipelines would obstruct their lives was hard at some points but also incredibly inspiring. Despite their fears and losses, they were determined to keep fighting and kept good spirits and strength throughout.
What issues or problems matter to you?
I want to combat political polarization by giving opportunities for young people like myself to engage in productive and meaningful conversations with people of diverse backgrounds and values. I also would like to continue my involvement with environmental activism.
What motivates you to be involved in creating change in these areas?
I am a product of my birthplace, Charlottesville, Virginia. The events of August 12, 2017 forced my community to examine what it means to be part of the South, with its scarred history in the modern day. A year after these events, this conversation must be kept open to heal the wounds they left on our identities as Americans, members of our respective races, and our differing political orientations.The largest obstacle to having these conversations is the current climate of political polarization. I urge my peers to address this issue not only because is it at the heart of many disputes besetting our nation, but it is one that every citizen can work to solve on a daily basis. We have the capacity to engage willingly and generously in conversations about difficult topics with people of different personal and ideological backgrounds. If we could foster a place to tackle inflammatory issues via respectful debate in our school system, we can have stronger, and more mature leaders who can work towards bipartisan change and seek to prevent events from catalyzing into violence.
What do your friends and your family think of your involvement?
I am grateful to have a strong group of close friends as well as my family who support me with my community involvement.
How do you feel that your work has made a difference?
Attending the Water is Life Rally and Concert last year was a highly rewarding experience after having worked for months to raise awareness for the event. The large turnout showed me the dedicated work of my team and others had inspired many to attend and share their stories.