The Chicago Youth for Millennium Development Goals works with schools throughout the District to expose students to international issues and give them a chance to address the millennium development goals. Often students are able to meet with refugees, immigrants and visitors from around the world. Recently, Natalie Leanos, a Curie student won a trip to Washington DC to participate in Save the Children 10th Annual Advocacy Day. Here are her thoughts on the trip.
I had an awesome week! I was one of the two advocates from Chicago that won a scholarship to Washington D.C. to attend the Save the Children 10th Annual Advocacy Day. The point of Advocacy Day is for us, the young children, to go speak to our Congressmen and Senators; and let our voices be heard about what they can do to help the malnourished children around the world, as well as here in the United States. It was a success!! There were many children from around the US participating in the two day event.
The first day were workshops where everyone got to know each other and work together to make posters showing awareness of what is going around the world and what we, the people, can do to help. Unfortunately my flight was canceled on the night before the event started. I was stuck in New York City for the night, and I needed to be in Washington the next day at eight in the morning. So yes, I was stressed at first because I didn’t know anyone who was going to attend the event and I was going to arrive real late to the workshops. Although my flight was canceled, I got to explore New York! Especially Times Square, it was AWESOME! The next day I got on a flight at 10:30 a.m. to Washington. I had butterflies in my stomach on my way to D.C. I was excited yet nervous about meeting new people.
I finally arrived to D.C. at 1:00 p.m I had missed the workshops and all that was left for the day was a luncheon with all the participants for Advocacy Day and the Staff of Save the Children. There were also special guests in the luncheon, such as Jonathan Capehart, who writes about politics for the PostPartisan blog, and Alex Wolff, a musician from Nickelodeon.
In the luncheon Jonathan discussed the upcoming elections and how teenagers and younger children feel like their voices aren’t being heard. Personally, in my high school many seniors are about to be 18 years old, meaning they’re able to vote, they think that the Congressmen and Senators won’t pay attention to what they have to say about ways the Congressmen can do more for their community. But in reality, we the children are the ones that play an important role for change. The Congressmen care more about our opinion, rather than the adults. You see, we’re the future, we are the ones who will create more in life and they know that. That is why the next day the participants were divided into groups depending on where their hometown was. Each of the participants was going to go speak to their Congressmen and Senators from their location back home in the Capitol Building.
The goal was to speak to them about why they should not cut the budget on the School Lunch Program here in the United States. Not many children are going to be able to receive free lunch in school with these cuts. Just last year 3.5 million children experienced food insecurity, so now if they cut the budget the number will increase.
Another budget cut the government wanted to do was lower the percentage of how much money would go overseas to help the malnourished children in developing countries. I got to speak to Senator Mark Kirk, Senator Richard Durbin, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, and Jesse White Jr. My partner, Helena, and I succeeded with our speech. All of the Congressmen and Senators agreed with us; they were in favor of not cutting the budgets.
This was truly a mark in my life, a trip I will NEVER forget! Especially because I got to go inside the tunnels under the Capitol building to get to the four different offices of each Senator and Congressmen and I had the chance to speak directly to them. One of the great moments from the trip was also making new friends from different states. I got to meet teens from Philadelphia, Tennessee, Texas, and from many more. Thanks to my avid teacher, Mr. Hardin for getting me, and my classmates, involved in the United Nations Millennium Goals and to Mrs. Walker for introducing me to the Save the Children Scholarship. Both of my teachers have truly blessed me with this wonderful moment! I hope that one day we will all step up and have our voices be heard, together we can all make a change!
Curie Metropolitan High School