SOUTH COUNTY — Students from King City, Greenfield and Soledad high schools recently visited the California State Capitol in Sacramento to speak with local legislators as part of the Girls Inc. of the Central Coast ECHO program.
During late February and early March, a total of 59 participants from South County attended two separate trips to the capitol building, where they met with area representatives that included Sens. Anna Caballero and Bill Monning and Assemblymembers Robert Rivas and Mark Stone. The girls brought up such issues as overcrowded classrooms, the need for more low-income housing, safer routes to school, additional bus transportation and teacher pay.
“The girls were nervous to speak in public in front of the legislators and so many of their peers, but they were able to communicate their issues of concern and asked tons of questions,” said Elizabeth Contreras, deputy director of Girls Inc. of the Central Coast. “We are grateful to have such amazing girls in our program. Even the state capitol tour guides expressed how much they love having Girls Inc. girls over.”
The group also toured the capitol, learned about California history and policymaking and talked with former Girls Inc. alumna Magaly Zagal, a graduate of Alisal High School, who is now working in Sacramento as a lobbyist.
After the capitol trip, the participants stopped by the University of California, Davis, for a guided tour of the campus. While there they were able to connect with current college students, several of whom were Girls Inc. alumnae, including 2015 King City High School graduate Karen Martinez and 2018 Soledad High School graduate Rosaisela Barroso.
Girls Inc. participant Chloe Bock, a sophomore at Soledad High School, said the most important thing she learned from the trip was about the passage of laws and the need for more girls to get involved in Congress.
“I learned that laws are passed with the help of so many people, but we need more to get involved,” Bock said. “… It is important for girls my age to get involved so we know later in life what to do and also think, if we want to make change in our community. It is important for girls to attend trips like this to get out and explore the world around us. Also, to get information on colleges, so we have an idea where to go in the future. After this trip, I can see myself on a college campus.”
According to Contreras, women currently represent only 23.7 percent of the U.S. Congress — an increase of 3.9 percent from 2018. At the state level, 30 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.
Girls Inc. has sponsored field trips to the state capitol for girls in the ECHO program since 2000.