The Youth Advocacy Council trainees were tasked this month with attending a community event focused on education. It could be a school board meeting, legislative session or in the case of the student below, a meeting with the Christina School District Budget Oversight Commission. These observations come from a rising senior at Cab Calloway School of the Arts:
At first I was disappointed to miss the Red Clay Board meeting for the month of July; it seemed as though an opportunity to introduce myself to my local educational community had slipped past. However after looking for other ways to join the conversation I found the Christina Citizen Budget Oversight Committee, a citizen-run board that discusses economic issues in the district. Attending a meeting with this board gave me a literal seat at the table, in a small group discussion which still maintained the importance and professionalism of an actual board meeting. Prior to attending the meeting I researched the objectives and foundation of the Committee which provided me with insight into its purpose and processes. On the other hand, coming into the meeting I was generally ignorant to the specific economic problems that Christina faced as for one I attend a high-school in Red Clay, and secondly financial issues are generally intimidating to the non-expert like myself, so I was not sure what to expect specifically.
The meeting began with a summary of the 2018 fiscal year tax items for the District and then delved deeper into more specific aspects of the year. After discussing and analysing many numerical, tax-related items on the agenda, some of which flew straight over my head, the meeting formally came to a close. At this point I was able to talk to the four members in attendance about financially related education topics that I knew were facing many districts in Delaware, and get their professional and personal ideas. As the only non-member in attendance my questions were heard directly and I could follow up immediately for clarification. I addressed two broad topics with my questions that I remember were hot topics at the first Y.A.C. meeting: redistricting and property reassessments. For both of these topics my understanding of the issues going into the meeting was altered dramatically and in the span of about a 30 minute discussion these four people completely changed my opinions and perspectives. To hear in-depth analysis of the financial repercussions of these two processes was very interesting and gave me a profound respect for the knowledge these members possessed as well as their passion for the ideas, particularly since they are simply interested citizens. Coming out of the meeting I still had many questions regarding other specific issues but nonetheless felt much more informed both when it financial issues of education and generally the way policy meetings such as this one operate, including the ways I and other students can get involved.
Earlier in the Summer I had the opportunity to attend the American Legion Boys State program in Dover while the Y.A.C. met with legislators in the city. Through the connections of Boys State we heard from policy makers and other officials from the representatives like Brian Townsend to current governor John Carney. Across each of the speeches given and discussions had with these leaders one topic that stood out was education. This interest in bettering the state’s education system allowed us young people to further our understanding by asking questions and providing our own ideas about certain subjects. Aside from hearing from leaders, the program also provided us with a platform to debate important issues in a legitimate setting, putting young people into the roles of representatives with the goal of drafting and passing mock legislation. With Y.A.C.’s goals in mind I wrote numerous bills regarding education reform and was able to hear the ideas of my peers on such issues.
While both of these novel experiences varied greatly in many aspects, both provided me with a door into the policy making world. They provided me with real insight into how decisions are made and were extremely valuable first steps into my development as a leader and contribution as a citizen. While I may have only begun to join the conversation I know I will continue to have more a voice in these important issues.