Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Washington Youth Leadership Seminar: Teenagers in Action

Every year, LNESC and LULAC bring top-notch Latino students from around the U.S. and Puerto Rico to connect them to the policy making process in Washington D.C. LNESC and LULAC arrange administration meetings, hill visits, media discussions, and advocacy trainings to expose students to the inner-workings of politics. WYLS imparts a sense of ownership over the American political system to students who often feel disengaged by connecting them to the policy-making process. While in D.C., students work on a policy position paper focused on an issue important to them. In the past students have focused on green jobs, healthcare, the economy and, in 2011, they focused on health. WYLS equips students with strategies to affect change on issues important to them in their communities, cultivating leaders for the future of the Latino community. 

WYLS participants on the way to the Senate.

The WYLS 2011 class was made up of 64 outstanding students from 14 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico; all students were pre-selected by LULAC’s grassroots network of councils. Students represented diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, but the majority were Latino and first-generation college-bound. 39 were female and 25 were male.

States represented included: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Virginia.

For many students, it was the first time seeing the nation's Capital.
The Washington Youth Leadership Seminar was a unique learning experience for everyone involved. Working closely with the students, I was able to see first-hand what the program meant to them. Many had never been out of their home state, and the opportunity to meet youth from all over the country and see some of the most important and meaningful sights in our nation was exciting. The students were challenged to think about the issues facing their own communities as well as Latino communities throughout the country, and not only stepped up to the plate to engage with speakers, but also continued the conversation amongst themselves even after the panels were finished. They asked intelligent questions and clearly relished the opportunity to express themselves to people in positions of power. The Washington Youth Leadership Seminar gave students an unparalleled opportunity to learn what it means to be a leader at home, and what they can do to make a difference on a larger scale.

Students met with Hill staffers to learn about health-related issues affecting the Latino community.



The Washington Youth Leadership Seminar is a great way to learn more about local and national policies that affect the Latino community on a daily basis. Not only do youth get personal exposure to policy makers, they also have the opportunity to interact with their peers from around the country. I'm already looking forward to next year!

The WYLS Class of 2011

--
Annie Downs
LNESC Special Programs Fellow

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