We’re excited to feature this post from Domenica Echeverria, a BGCA Government Relations Intern who is a Greenwich Boys & Girls Club Alum, served as Connecticut Youth of the Year, AND also worked at her Club! Sign up for email alerts to learn more about BGCA’s advocacy efforts and learn how you can get involved. This post is adapted from BGCA.org.
BGCA just wrapped up another successful National Days of Advocacy at the start of this month! Over 630 Club advocates from across the nation including all 50 states as well as D.C., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa logged in to virtually share their stories with their members of Congress and to hear from some dynamic speakers while receiving useful advocacy trainings.
We kicked off this amazing week with a warm virtual Club welcome from the Boys and Girls of Greater Washington with a video highlighting Youth Ambassadors and Advocates. Clubs then heard from BGCA leaders including President & CEO Jim Clark, Senior Vice President of Government Relations Missy Dugan, and Government Relations Committee Co-Chair Nancy Zirkin, and then dedicated champion, Club alum and family member, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD)!
This year’s attendees also got to hear from a noted speaker with special ties to the Movement. U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona (and former Board member of the Boys & Girls Club of Meridan in Connecticut) held an inspirational fireside chat with two Youths of the Year, Jehlin H. from Boys and Girls Club of Middle Tennessee and Asha H.R. from the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington. Jehlin and Asha asked the Secretary his opinion on many important issues facing youth including youth mental health, career and college pathways, prioritizing youth issues in Congress as well as safe social media use. Secretary Cardona emphasized the importance of youth voice, stating:
“You are the leaders of today, and you are going to be the leaders of tomorrow”, and urged youth to show elected officials at all levels of government how issues are seen through their [youths] eyes.”
Secretary Cardona ended with a call to action for youth to stay true to who they are and their stances on issues that are important to them. Attendees also received a special treat after the Secretary asked Asha to show off her singing chops!
We also recognized our 2022 Congressional Champions of Youth, U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME), as well as our Lifetime Hero Awardees, retiring U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Our Missouri and Vermont Clubs put together special videos thanking Sens. Blunt and Leahy for their years of service. You can see them here.
And our meetings netted results! Club CEOs, Board members, staff and youth members participated in over 411 meetings with nearly 30% being member-level meetings. This resulted in seven new co-sponsors of the Youth Workforce Readiness Act and three new co-sponsors of the Summer Meals Act! When Clubs and youth talk, Congress listens!
As an Alum of the Greenwich Boys & Girls Club and former Connecticut Youth of the Year, NDOA reminded me of the importance of youth voice and advocacy. Growing up attending my local Club and later working there, I saw firsthand the impact different programming and funding has on members’ wellbeing and development. Being able to be an active part of meetings with members of Congress and having the opportunity to share my personal stories with them was such a rewarding experience because I want others to experience the transformative effect Clubs can have on their lives, just like it had on mine.
Thank you all for making Virtual NDOA 2022 such a huge success, and we look forward to seeing you in DC in 2023!
Boys & Girls Clubs play an important role in helping youth learn to become advocates for the issues they are passionate about. BGCA has resources you can use to encourage youth voice and leadership.
- The Youth for Change Social Justice Roadmap is a step-by-step guide for action or advocacy in your local community. Choose a topic, learn to identify a social injustice problem and use the guide to create change.
- At BGCA.net/Teens, find resources elevating teen voice, including Teens Take the Lead and Lyricism 101, and information on supporting emotional wellness.
- MyFuture features Advocacy, Activism and Service activities including badges in Digital Citizenship, Youth for Change, and more. Consider incorporating recent events, such as the Inspire Change Town Hall sponsored by the NFL into your programming.
- Keystone Club and Torch Club allow youth to gain hands-on leadership and service experience. Torch Club is for youth 10-13, and Keystone Club is for teens.
- Read other ClubX Blog posts including how to get involved in BGCA’s national advocacy efforts, supporting trans and non-binary youth, and staying non-partisan when talking about elections by browsing the Advocacy tag.