“Where I’m from, I’m told to keep my opposing views to myself — and I started to believe that. But after this experience, I know that I should never let anyone silence me.”
– Lauren, Girls Inc. of Tennessee Valley, Teen Advocacy Council Member
Last month, teen leaders representing their Girls Inc. peers from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C. to learn and grow as advocates, and to voice their concerns and desire for change at the highest level of government. The four-day trip served as the culmination of each teen’s participation in the Girls Inc. Teen Advocacy Council (TAC). TAC is a year-long program that engages high school girls in advocacy and community organizing. Members also serve as an advisory group for the Girls Inc. #GirlsToo campaign. This year’s cohort represented eight U.S. states and 10 Girls Inc. affiliates, and marks the third cohort of the program.
Meetings on the Hill
One of the highlights of the DC trip was the opportunity to speak with members of Congress on Capitol Hill. This year, teens met with a number of prominent women in government, including Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI), Senator Tammy Duckworth (IL), Senator Mazie Hirono (HI), champion of the Gender Equity in Education Act, and Senator Patty Murray (WA). The senators listened to the girls talk about their concerns about sexual violence in their schools, the impact it has on their peers, and possible solutions. Additionally, chief of staff for Senator Kristen Gillibrand, Joi Chaney, spoke with the girls about a career in politics and the ins and outs of her role supporting the Senator.
“This week I was reminded that my voice matters and that all of the advocacy I’ve done in my community matters,” said Eman, a high school senior who attends Girls Inc. of Island City. (Check out Eman’s story, in case you missed it.)
Educating and Informing
Over the past year, the TAC teens attended virtual meetings to discuss a number of issues of concern to them including sexual harassment and violence. They also learned more about the public policy process and explored how they can spark change in their communities. Additionally, the teens worked on the ground to educate and inform their peers, school officials, and other decision makers. Collaboration, support, and empowerment have marked the experience for this year’s cohort.
“I have found a group of girls that have accepted me and have cared for me. I have never felt such a strong bond to these girls,” said Katherine, a rising high school sophomore who attends Girls Inc. of Tarrant County.
Equipped and empowered, the Teen Advocacy Council left DC ready to push for change in their local communities and to use their voices to make a difference in the world around them.