Written by New Voices Are Rising Summer Academy Participant Giovanni
I found out about New Voices Are Rising’s Summer Climate Justice Leadership Academy through a teacher, who told me it was right up my alley and encouraged me to apply. Part of me thinks she thought of me because I started a club at my high school last year. My club, “Rise Up,” helps ignite confidence in my peers as we speak out about problems we see and advocate for change. We also express our cultures, background, opinions, and ourselves. And now, I am so grateful to be a part of New Voices. Joining the Summer Academy has been so eye-opening and informative! Each week, we have focused on different subjects, including air quality, food justice, environmental justice, and energy.
As part of the program, I got matched to an “externship” with my City Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson here in Antioch. I get to help the local government, give input, share my voice and opinions, and work on projects for my community. Currently, I am focusing on finding the best ways to reach Antioch residents in areas most affected by air pollution. If it wasn’t for New Voices, I wouldn’t be making all the connections I have now and have my voice heard, especially in the City Council. This feels particularly important to me, since other participants in the Academy and I have been talking about how most of the time, adults don’t listen to youth. One of the biggest things we hope for is to have adults listen to our voices and support us when it comes to decisions affecting our futures.
I took this photo while attending a ceremony as a part of my externship. The Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson (my externship host, pictured signing above), and City Council members signed a resolution apologizing to the Asian American and Pacific Island community for the racism perpetrated against Chinese immigrants in the 1800s. Antioch was the first city in the country to issue a formal apology of this kind.
While it’s only been a few weeks, my fellow Academy participants already feel like friends. And we bonded even further at the Youth Poetry Slam last week! The Slam brought us all together to show each other what we are passionate about and open up to the group. Though the program is virtual and most of the members are from other communities in the Bay Area, it hasn’t felt like an online program at all. The environment is so welcoming, friendly, and understanding. It feels like it’s a group of young people teaching young people, which I love. Learning from other youth creates a tighter community and makes me feel like we are part of a bigger conversation — not just a lesson. I see the friendships I have made so far are lasting beyond when the program ends. New Voices and my new friends are reminding me how powerful youth are and that we can create change.
Being a youth and having my voice heard isn’t always simple. There are so many important issues we all need to talk about — issues that are important for youth to have a say in. At the end of the day, we the youth are the future. We are here to stand up for what we believe in and to make change. The Summer Academy program has helped me find my voice and encourage my peers in this program to do so as well. So, I hope that those of you who are reading this can make an effort to listen to the youth in your life, take what we say into consideration, and join us in creating the change we need for a better future.