Our Roots Keep Us Grounded

CYC Youth Put their Voices into Action
by
FCNI, featuring CYC Youth Sandra Gomez, Celena Malarkey, and Felipe Campoverde,
June, 7, 2016

This past February, FCNI sent a group of young foster youth who participate in the local chapter of the California Youth Connection to the State Capitol for the Annual Day at the Capitol. After their experience, the group drafted the following article. In a day and age where politics can be more divisive and negative, we salute these young people for taking a more positive approach: for learning how to use their voices to stand up for causes they believe in to better the lives of so many. We here at FCNI couldn’t be more proud of their bravery and dedication!

There is nothing more powerful than a person who has been broken and been robbed of their own voice to stand up and improve the lives of those who feel voiceless. Through the California Youth Connection (CYC), the foster youth of San Luis Obispo County are taking the initiative to advocate for their peers. CYC is a youth led organization which advocates for policy change within the foster care system. Just this past February, members of CYC were in Sacramento advocating for SB1060, a bill that would assist adopted youth in having conversations about keeping connections with siblings after the adoption process. SB1060 would require that adoptive parents, the child or youth who will soon to be adopted, in collaboration with other supportive people in their lives, to at least have conversations about the importance of sibling ties and keeping connections that have already been made prior to the adoption. The goal is to maintain important sibling connections.

In preparation for advocating for SB1060, a couple of us youth spent a few days in Sacramento at CYC’s Annual Day at the Capitol Conference. At this conference youth receive an intensive weekend full of leadership training. Youth go through a series of workshops which educate them on the bill that will be addressed at Day at the Capitol, and they reiterate how the bill being addressed affects foster youth throughout California. One of the most important skills that is taught through CYC’s workshops is how to strategically share personal stories, and many utilized these skills when they have conversations with legislators. Our SLO chapter did such a great job in strategically sharing and explaining SB1060 that we not only got the support from Assembly Member Katcho Achadjian, but we also were able to get him to agree to co-author our bill!

When youth were asked about their experience with Day at the Capitol they shared the following:

“I am so fortunate to have had an opportunity to be able to be part of the Day at the Capitol for 2016 and to be able to meet other members from different chapters. Going to this conference was a great opportunity to learn how the legislative process works and how to advocate for a bill. I enjoyed seeing the California State Capitol and the museum section. I had a chance to meet Assembly Members at the capitol and had the opportunity to speak about SB1060 and ask for support from the legislators we spoke with. These experiences leave me with memories and lessons I am going to take with me as I move on with my life.”

-Sandra Gomez

“Day at the Capitol is such an empowering event, I always leave this conference inspired and proud. If anything could capture the essence of CYC, it would be the rally at the Capitol in my opinion!  At the Rally you get to see the diversity within CYC, we have all come from various experiences and there we stand on the Capitol steps, united, advocating for rights for future foster youth. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the CYC community, I have never felt so connected and proud of the obstacles I have overcome. I get to use my experiences to impact other youth & policies to come, and to me there is nothing more gratifying than helping and improving the lives of others.”

-Celena Malarkey

“I'm so beyond grateful to have been given the opportunity to go and be a part of Day at the Capital with my local CYC chapter. Also to meet all the other chapters of CYC and create bonds and memories that will last a lifetime. It was such an honor to meet people my age, older, and younger striving for the same goal as me, which is to improve the foster care system.”

-Felipe Campoverde

If you are a current or former foster youth between the ages of 14-24 who is interested in learning more about CYC, if you know someone who is, OR if you’d like to learn more about how you can support CYC, please email the San Luis Obispo chapter at sanluisobispochapter@calyouthconn.org