Congratulations to Fernanda Cerillo from Hudson Bay HS who was selected to participate in the 2018 Washington Youth Leadership Seminar in D.C. The Washington Youth Leadership Seminar (WYLS) is #LNESC’s annual leadership development program that brings together approximately 50+ future rising Latino leaders from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico to Washington, DC and immerses them in a specific public policy area. Students undergo leadership training, advocacy training, and peer bonding exercises, resulting in a tight-knit group of leaders engaged and energized to make a difference in the Latino community.
Read more about Fernanda’s experience in DC:
“This year, I got the most wonderful opportunity to travel to Washington DC for the annual Washington Youth Leadership Seminar (WYLS) hosted by LNESC. Every year, this amazing leadership development program picks a public policy to focus on and brings students from across the states including Puerto Rico together, in order to advocate and inspire growing leaders within our Latino communities. During my time in dc, I was able to speak with members of Congress, tour our nation’s capital and overall, increase my knowledge about how educational policies impact my community.
The main public policy we were focused on this year, was education. Specifically, exploring how different education policies affect us. We had workshops on effective advocacy, how legislation affects Latino students, Higher Education Finance and Policy as well as resume development. Many policies challenges Latino students face, including, lack of early childhood education or as we know it, preschool. Many people believe we don’t need preschool and it is not a requirement, however, any early education has the capacity to change an outlook on college. However, then comes the question, of who can afford preschool, thereby asking who can afford the education and many Latino parents cannot. Or the topic of representation within schools, it absolutely matters who is teaching and who makes the curriculums for students. Kids need someone they can relate to and connect with, many times all it takes to build community is someone who looks like students themselves. The Dream Act was brought up as well, truth of the matter is, Congress has not made any decisions to pursue any legislation, and we cannot stop fighting for our voices to be heard, we need to keep pressuring Congress and keep them accountable.
As with finance, many Latino students who decide to go to college, don’t have the same benefits as others. In fact, many colleges spend less money on Latinx students than students pay for tuition. There are spending gaps between black and white students, the state of California being at a 26% difference and Connecticut being at 23%. In the works, is a way to simplify FASFA, and allow it to be attainable and completed by more students as well as having a federal and state partnership to include 2 years of free community college. This idea being brought up due to the high amounts of debt students in the United States have.
We also focused on resume development and informed different congress members about how our Latino communities are being affected by education policies. Resume building was essential and relevant for all students and we were able to analyze resumes and choose a correct format as well as start our own. We were all put into different groups to meet our senators, my group had a couple students from Texas and we spoke to representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Senator Patty Murray’s legislative aid, Manuel Contreras from Washington, about supporting the rights to have quality education for all students, including the funding for books, devices, school supplies, and classroom space for all students. We also spoke about how expensive college is, how difficult it can be to pay for college loans and to support tuition free community colleges. Lastly, my group and I brought up how much of our class time is taken for standardized testing and how there are so many tests which don’t measure our knowledge accurately rather, it measures how well you can pace yourself through it. Not every student learns at the same pace, and that is okay.
Out of 56 leaders this year, I represented the state of Washington, but it was unbelievably incredible to meet so many different people from across the country including Puerto Rico, Utah, Ohio, Illinois, Texas, California, Pennsylvania, New York, and many more. By the end of the program, many of us had unintentionally adapted each others slang and accents. Two weeks later, we are all consistently in contact with each other through social media and text about how much homework we have. Although we only spent 5 days together, the bond we made by sharing meals, beds and even the bathrooms, will forever be something I treasure. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to meet all the young leaders I did, many who I know we’ll be seeing more of and am excited for the future.
To learn more about the Washington Youth Leadership Seminar visit: https://www.lnesc.org/wyls