Capitol visit puts World Vision training into action
Alrick Hollingsworth quietly slipped out of a conference room and into a marble-tiled hallway in the Washington state Capitol. He wanted a jump on the crowd of more than 100 students to have a word with Gov. Jay Inslee, whom he had waited all weekend to meet.
Alrick, 16, didn't quite know what he was going to say, and it didn't matter, so much as he was putting himself out there, making connections. The junior at Rainier Beach High School was on a mission to speak up for the needs of his South Seattle community.
"This was a powerful movement toward what I want to do." Alrick says, "This led me to where I can get actual resources to open up to help other communities."
He and about 80 similarly passionate students, some of whom were trained in World Vision's Youth Empowerment Network, came to Olympia in late January for the annual Legislative Youth Action Day. The organization partners with the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council to help young people see government at work and learn specific ways to influence legislation to bring tangible help to their communities.
World Vision's Empowered for Change curriculum equips adult youth workers in these community groups to develop youth leaders who promote transformation in their neighborhoods. Throughout eight months of training, youth hone understanding about key issues in their community, learn to effectively present ideas to public officials, and ultimately become more competent, confident advocates.
This trip to Olympia helps them connect the dots between those communal challenges and the people who influence policy that could make things better.
"I participated today because it's important for the community to get their voices heard," said Savelio Makasini, 17, a student who went through World Vision's training with Our Future Matters (OFM), a youth group supporting the Pacific Islander community in White Center, Wash. "I was surprised at how engaged Rep. [Steve] Bergquist was."
OFM wants to help members of the Pacific Islander community engage more deeply with the education system so their youth can do better in school. Savelio and his group spoke with lawmakers about how they could get more resources in schools to educate teachers and students about Pacific Islander culture.
Pulemau Savusa, 20, went through World Vision's training in high school. She now helps lead the OFM group. She noticed how excited the group was as they went office-to-office Jan. 26, lobbying for more educational resources for the Pacific Islander community.
"To see them at this point in the conference talking to legislators is an amazing thing," Pulemau said. "A lot of our kids worried about maybe losing part of their culture if they don't speak out."
Pulemau said she sees progress in OFM members' confidence when bringing issues to lawmakers. The group didn't have that before they went through World Vision's training.
"A lot of them have grown and matured," she said. "They know what's going on now, but they didn't realize how important what they have to say is."
To World Vision Engagement Officer Brian Boyd, the visit to the capitol is all about helping passionate young people like Alrick and Savelio find practical ways to transform their communities.
"A lot of times they don't see their voice as powerful," Brian said. "World Vision plays a critical role in giving underserved communities a voice at the state level."
When Gov. Inslee emerged from the conference room after speaking with the student leaders, Alrick greeted him with a handshake and questions about how to bring more help to the increasing amount of people living on Seattle's streets.
The Governor responded cordially and gave him some contacts to follow up with.
Alrick said he and his classmates plan to continue organizing community events to honor Charles, including planting 15 trees — one for each year he lived behind the school.
Savelio is working to bring better educational opportunities for his little sister and future generations.
"We need their [our leaders'] wisdom, but they also need our creativity and new ideas," Savelio said.