Students from around the State of California convened in Sacramento at the State Capitol June 26th – 29th, 2012 for a week of engaging with elected officials and other state leaders as well as gaining real-world advocacy training. In addition to meeting and questioning some of the key officials in state government, the students dove in and tackled their project for the week: identifying some of the most pressing problems facing California, gathering information from experts throughout state government and then crafting proposed solutions.
The students at the JSA California Institute on Politics and Leadership worked on issues like the increase in teen pregnancy rates, the lack of public transportation and the low quality of education provided by public schools. They interviewed officials around the capitol and met with their state legislators to discuss the nature of the problems and viable solutions. Experts from Ogilvy Public Relations provided training on advocacy and building a support for a campaign when the students return to their homes.
“My favorite part was getting to meet my legislators”, said student Julianna Joss, “It was neat to see how excited everyone was to talk about the issues we care about directly with the people making decisions about them!”
Students met in the Office of the Governor with Gil Duran, Governor Brown’s Press Secretary as well as the Director of External Affairs to discuss the budget that was being signed that day!
In the California Department of Education students met with officials to discuss the current state of the education system and some new initiatives that Superintendent Tom Torlakson is implementing. Craig Chelsog, Principal Advisor to Superintendent Torlakson, noted that: “We aren’t teaching the skills that are necessary for problem solving”, and explained the blueprint for schools that includes teaching to the student’s skills with more civic education and art, not simply to the test scores.
Students later met at the Sacramento Courthouse to learn from Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto, as well as Sacramento County District Attorney, Rod Norgaard about the justice system. Erin Mellon from SAFE California also spoke about the misconceptions surrounding capital punishment.