Students from King City, Greenfield and Soledad recently visited the California State Capitol in Sacramento to speak with local legislators. Below, Girls Inc. members gather inside the Capitol with Assemblymember Anna Caballero (center).
SOUTH COUNTY — Dozens of South County high school girls recently traveled to the California State Capitol in Sacramento to voice their concerns on local policy issues, explain their views on bills that lawmakers are considering and learn about policy-making.
As part of a leadership program with Girls Inc. of the Central Coast, young women from eight school sites throughout Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties, including 68 students from South County, participated in the trip during February and March to speak with legislators.
High school groups from Alisal and Soledad visited the Capitol building Feb. 27, followed by Seaside and Pajaro Valley on Feb. 28, North Monterey County and San Benito on March 1 and King City and Greenfield on March 7.
“Here at Girls Inc. we are committed to provide girls with the tools and experiences that will help grow and develop as leaders,” said Elizabeth Contreras, deputy director for Girls Inc. of the Central Coast. “We hope that through trips like these, the girls will learn that they can make a difference by informing themselves about issues, speaking up for things they care about and learning how they can work with the political process to make changes.”
According to Girls Inc., women currently represent only 19.8 percent of U.S. Congress members, and about 38 percent of these are women of color. At the state level, 22.5 percent of California legislators are women.
“California has sent more women to Congress than any other state, a total of 39 to date, but there is still a lot of work to be done to encourage girls to pursue a career in public office, and to ensure that they receive the tools and opportunities to do so,” Contreras said.
For this reason, Girls Inc. has sponsored this field trip to girls participating in the Education, Careers, Health and Opportunities (ECHO) Leadership Mentoring Program since 2000.
Past participants have expressed their excitement after the visit, saying “We were encouraged to make a difference, we were encouraged to dream big and we were empowered to share our concerns.”
Another participant said, “I know that my voice counts, that our legislators are willing to hear what we have to say. I feel more empowered after visiting the Capitol.”
During the recent Capitol trips, some of the issues the girls discussed included funding for schools, the current state of DACA and immigration policy, affordable education, gangs and safety, as well as funding for after-school activities, among other topics.
In addition to the tour, participants also stopped by University of California, Davis, and met with current college students, several of whom were Girls Inc. alumnae.
Girls Inc. of the Central Coast is an affiliate of Girls Inc., the country’s leading research and evaluation organization on issues pertaining to girls and young women. The organization works with girls ages 8 to 18 with proven “girl-focused” programs at outreach sites throughout Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.
Girls Inc. is currently looking for volunteer women mentors to work with high school girls in the ECHO Leadership Mentoring Program beginning June 2018 through May 2019.
For more information or an application, contact Elizabeth Contreras at 831-772-0882 or [email protected]