By: Jordan, YES! Youth Staff, Charlotte, NC
On March 8th, 2017, the North Carolina Alliance for Health partnered with Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!) to host an Advocacy day with several groups and organizations from the YES! Youth Network, who traveled from all over North Carolina, coming together in Raleigh to meet with our state-level policy makers to advocate for policies and programs that reflect our mission and goals. We were split up by our districts and scheduled for several meetings where we discussed three main initiatives.
During the day I was able to talk to several of my district’s elected officials such as Senator Jeff Jackson, Representative William Brawley, Representative Chaz Beasley, Senator Joyce Waddell and others. We spent the time discussing each of the three initiatives with our policy makers and explained why they will better our communities, encouraging them to support these bills and programs.
The experience was one of a kind. For the first time, I was able to voice my opinion and influence others on the things that I am most passionate about with those who are the decision makers within our state and have the power to support legislation that affects not only me, but the community I live in. At first I was somewhat nervous, but I was eventually able to really take charge and confidently get my message across. As the day went on and I attended more meetings, I was able to deliver our messages clearly and precisely with more ease. Here is the information that I presented to my
The Healthy Corner Store Initiative, also known as The Healthy Food Small Retail Program (HFSRP), is an initiative that provides the resources needed to support local corner stores as well as “mom and pop shops” that are located in low-income communities and food deserts to stock and sell healthy and affordable foods that are easy for the communities to access.
The second initiative is the Youth Tobacco Prevention Fund, which was created to provide resources to communities and teens to prevent teen tobacco use; specifically towards e-cigarettes as well as the prevention of other kinds of tobacco use. We were asking for the
m to reinstate the Fund, and to reallocate the full $17 million in prevention dollars in the state budget that was taken away a few years ago.
The third request was that Physical Education/Physical Activity (PE/PA) become a priority on the NC Report Cards, so parents and students would know what each student was getting in schools. Our hope is to increase the amount of physical education and activity students receive as well as increase funding for physical education programs and teachers.
I was amazed by the amount of interest the elected officials took in the initiatives and how much they wanted to learn about each one. They were very engaged during our conversations with them. They asked questions about each initiative and also contributed to the conversation by sharing their own experiences revolving around tobacco use and how the impact of a lack of access to healthy affordable food has had a lasting effect on their family and loved ones. This showed me that they truly want to be involved in their communities.
Participating not only allowed me to experience talking to state officials and advocate for something that I truly believe in, but also able to sit down and have a conversation with my representatives and senators made me see them not only as policy makers, but as people invested in my well-being.
If you would like to get involved and advocate for positive change in your community, I encourage you to search for and contact your local representatives and senators! I have seen first-hand that it really makes a difference. If you live in the state of NC and would like to contact your local representative, visit http://www.ncleg.net/.