Bay Area Fellows Get Loud in Sacramento

In patnership with NextGen Climate America, seven Bay Area Action Fellows hit the ground running at the state capitol as they met with nineteen legislators on April 12th. Below are three personal accounts from the youth themselves.  

Ivy Chen

On April 12th, I traveled with six other Action Fellows from the Bay Area up to Sacramento, our state capitol, for a legislation advocacy day in partnership with NextGen Climate America. After an early start and surprisingly little traffic, we got to Sacramento around 8:30AM.

After less than two hours of reviewing our advocacy materials, practicing our talking points, and making last minute changes to the organization of our advocacy teams, we were ready to step foot into the capitol!

The capitol building was beautiful. I was mesmerized by the intricate details on the interior architecture, especially the dome, with beams of sunlight piercing through. Joined by Rochelle and Suryaa, our team visited the offices of five assembly members and senators to talk about the importance of voting yes on SB 1383. The bill is aimed at reducing short-lived climate pollutants, methane, black carbon, and hydrofluoric carbon by 40-50% from 2013 levels by 2030. SB 1383 provides a comprehensive plan that guides each sector of the industry in reducing its emissions.

As high school students, we brought a different perspective into the dialogue as we expounded on the importance of this bill by connecting it to our personal lives and our fervent involvement in the environmental movement. Most of the representatives we met with were familiar with SB 1383, so we could focus on why we believe this bill matters and thank them for supporting the bill if they’d already decided to vote yes.

This trip was such an important learning experience for me. Before this, I had no idea how intense work in the public service sector at the state capital can be. As it turned out, each representative has a team of staff members to help go through up to 400 legislative documents each season and they have to be well-informed in a wide range of issues. To truly understand climate policy itself is already a complex task, let alone needing to have a working knowledge of hundreds of other issues as well. I think to understand an issue beyond its superficial layer in such a short time frame requires experience, and it probably gets easier the more experience one gains in the policy arena.

For those young people who feel like they’re often left out of the equation when it comes to decision-making and politics, fear no longer! The good news is, even though it doesn’t seem like talking to your local politicians is possible, it actually is! Your regional and state representatives are here to address the needs of the people, and most representatives actually spend many appointments each day during the rush season meeting with concerned community members.

So, if you are really passionate about advocating for climate action or any other civic issue, grab a few friends and schedule some meetings with your politicians before those time slots are taken up by other lobbying groups! As cliche as it sounds, this is our future. Our planet. We have a moral responsibility to fight for the health of our planet as inhabitants.

Ivy Chen is a 2015-2016 Action Fellow in the San Francisco Bay Area. She attends Irvington High School.


Maxine Jimenez

On April 12th, 2016, I went to the state capitol in Sacramento with six other Fellows to advocate for SB 1383. The bill will workto reduce the amount of short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons. As young people, we feel the responsibility to fight for better air quality since we have the most to lose if we don’t take action. Despite our age, we had the passion, the drive, and the resources to persuade our state legislators to support this bill.

Ana, Lisa, Zena (our mentor) and I visited 8 legislator’s offices throughout the day. The first meeting was with a staffer from Assemblymember David Chiu’s office. They say the first meeting is always the toughest, and it was. The office was incredibly busy and there was no room for us to meet. On top of that, the staffer that we were supposed to meet with was in a committee meeting. We ended up meeting very briefly with a different staffer outside, in the hallway. Personally, I felt very distracted by how busy the capitol was, and I felt that I did not get the chance to say what I wanted to say.

After our first meeting, my team realized that we needed to get better at working together. We practiced how we wanted to feed off of each other’s stories to become smoother and more flexible in our arguments. We proceeded to have great meetings with a staffers from the offices of Assemblymembers Jose Medina, Jimmy Gomez, Mark Stone, and Senator Jerry Hill, all of whom we could comfortably assume would support SB 1383 because of their past voting records.    

However, our meeting with a staffer from Assemblymember Matthew Harper’s office was different. My team and I were a bit intimidated at first because Assemblymember Harper was the only Assemblymember that voted no on all prior similar bills.  When we brought up his voting record and asked the staffer why he had voted no on similar bills, the staffer brought up how SB 1383 could cause more regulations on businesses, which could eventually cause businesses to leave their district. Despite our differing views, we were sympathetic to the reasoning behind the Assemblymember’s opposition to the bilI and I believe it was important for us to meet with someone that isn’t in support of this bill because there are many others that disagree with our views on climate change and we need to be ready to have these tough conversations. We also need to consider other viewpoints in order to make our own arguments stronger.

Our last meeting with Senator Ricardo Lara, who authored SB 1383, was extremely inspiring. He encouraged us to keep making our voices heard, especially because young people are often silenced. He shared his story of how he became involved in politics and why he was so passionate about his work as a politician. He made it clear that his drive comes from what he went through in his own community. Senator Lara made sure that we left his office knowing that we need to keep fighting and that making change is possible through passionate and dedicated work.

I am grateful to have Rochelle, Zena, and Colin for all their support and hard work to get us to the capitol. They made sure we had the tools to successfully advocate for SB 1383. It was a great experience and it made me believe that as young folks, we have the power to create change and make our voices heard if we put ourselves out there. It made me more conscious about how climate policies work and that there are driving forces that will make the road to a more sustainable world bumpy. However, this is not discouraging. It won’t be easy, but I have hope that my generation will fight for our environment and our future.

Maxine Jimenez is a 2015-2016 Senior Action Fellow in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was also an Action Fellow in the 2014-2015 school year in Los Angeles. She attends UC Santa Cruz.


Suryaa Murali

On April 12th, the Bay Area Action Fellowship cohort visited the state capitol building for a day of legislative advocacy!

My team visited the offices of six CA senators and assemblymembers. At first, I thought, oh this is gonna be easy, because I’m used to networking events with adults. But I was humbled by the experience. As they day progressed, I gained my confidence and I was able to get across my message in fashion ;D.

Each meeting throughout the day was unique. The highlights for me were meeting with Senator Bob Wieckowski, who is from my city of Fremont, and Senator Ricardo Lara, who authored SB 1383. They both talked about their respective experiences at COP 21 in Paris, and their work getting countries to change the way they see development and climate change.

This experience made me realize something tangential to our everyday lives. Everyday we’re faced with decisions and these decisions can have far reaching implications. Depending on our past experiences and who we are, we see things differently.

This world does not need economic, political, or psychological change to change for the better-it needs moral change. Each one of us needs to make good moral decisions, and a good example of this is protecting our planet from short-lived climate polutants to better our planet for generations to come. One way to do that is by supporting SB 1383.

It was an absolutely eye-opening experience, and I can’t thank ACE (Zena, Rochelle, and Reb) and NextGen (Colin) enough for the opportunity.

Suryaa Murali is a 2015-2016 Action Fellow in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attends Irvington High School.


Zena Zendejas

Zena joined ACE in 2014 and ran ACE's Action Fellow Program Manager for the Peninsula/South Bay Region until leaving the organization in 2016. Zena believes that youth are the leaders the world needs today and works to ensure the growth of their confidence in expressing their experiences and understanding the social implications behind them.