At the third annual Use Your Voice youth advocacy training, roughly 45 students from Clark, Skamania, and Klickitat counties learned how to share their opinions and ideas with legislators and other decision makers.
The five-hour training—hosted by Prevent Coalition on December 21, 2018, at Washougal High School—was developed, prepared and facilitated by three Clark County youth and young adults:
- Jesse Jimenez is a Program Coordinator at Police Activities League of Southwest Washington. He serves on the Prevent Coalition Steering Committee and is Chair of the Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Committee. Jesse was a speaker for the 2017 Prevention Policy Day rally in Olympia.
- Bridgette McCarthy is a member of and active volunteer with Unite! Washougal. She studies at Gonzaga University and is a General George C. Marshall Youth Leadership Award Recipient. Bridgette is nationally trained on advocacy and policy.
- Madison Langer is a Tobacco Free Kids Youth Ambassador trained on advocacy and prevention in Washington, DC. She works with Prevent Coalition and as a Clark County STASHA Peer Educator. Madi is excited to be a youth speaker at the 2019 Prevention Policy Day in Olympia.
To gain knowledge of the legislative process, Use Your Voice participants grappled with the question, “Should chocolate be legal?” They learned how to turn ideas into policies, locate or contact Senators and Representatives, craft persuasive messages for decision makers and what to expect when engaging with legislators in the state capitol. Throughout the training, students moved around the room, worked individually and in teams, and were given opportunities to present their ideas to the larger group.
Madison shared best practices when crafting a message, “You want these personal stories to really make an impact. One of the things I focused on in Washington, DC, was making my story sound impactful and not just saying ‘oh that was hard to deal with,’ but then sharing what we’re going to change to make a difference.”
Representative Paul Harris attended the second half of the event, sharing his experiences turning ideas into policies, discussing the political process, and the importance of using your voice. He offered insight about the types of conversations legislators must have and the decisions they make in addition to answering questions from the youth audience and participating in a photo opportunity.
The youth in attendance registered for the training in partnership with prevention coalitions, school prevention programs and other youth/student groups. Several shared their impressions from the day. One student’s biggest take-away was “It isn’t as hard to get involved as some people might think.” Another said after this event they want to “Speak out about problems in school and push to get things done. Be brave and use your voice!” Another summarized their experience saying, “Advocacy is a tool that can be used to voice opinions and ideas. It is important for the integrity of democracy.”
After learning how to use their voice to make a difference, participants were invited to engage with policy makers in Olympia during Prevention Policy Day on February 18, 2019. Youth were provided with information and resources regarding a policy on the 2019 legislative agenda that would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco in Washington state to 21.
Use Your Voice was hosted by Prevent Coalition and Unite! Washougal provided the training facilities, supplies, photography and planning support. Funding provided by the Washington State Department of Health, Dedicated Marijuana Account Funding.
Want to learn more? Click to read the Camas-Washougal Post-Record article.