Half past 8 a.m., AP government students at Ánimo Pat Brown Charter High School had their eyes fixed on a projected Zoom screen at the front of the classroom. In a matter of minutes, they would virtually meet Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard of California’s 40th Congressional District, who had set time aside to personally answer the students’ questions on leadership and government.
This conversation with an elected official is one of many planned for Voices of Florence Firestone, a new and ongoing series where Ánimo Pat Brown government students learn about their elected officials' impact on their local communities, and how they can work with these leaders to incite change. Joel Snyder, the government and economics teacher at Ánimo Pat Brown, created this series to provide new ways to engage students in local, state, and federal politics.
“Coming out of the pandemic, I’ve been thinking about how to make sure that my students are heard by their elected officials. I want to make sure they are getting the chance to see who represents them,” Snyder said. “I want our students to understand that these things are real, challenging, and important in their lives.”
Snyder’s government students have been researching elected officials, documenting community issues, and brainstorming solutions. Synder said his government students penned letters to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power board members, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Before meeting with congresswoman, students submitted questions about how decisions are made, what inspired Roybal-Allard to become a politician, and how she created change in her congressional district.
“Often when I'm talking to our community, and to young people like yourselves and your parents, I try to explain to them how those of us who are in elected office, directly impact every single day of your life,” Roybal-Allard said to the class. “We, elected officials, determine how much money goes to education, how much money goes to Federal Pell Grants to help all of you go to college. We determine the minimum wage. The bottom line is, there is nothing in your life that is not in some way connected to the decisions that elected officials make. And therefore, it is critical that our community becomes more involved and leads and votes on election day.”
The conversation with Roybal-Allard is the first of many planned for Voices of Florence Firestone this year. Snyder has already secured in-class meetings with Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, and Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education members Tanya Ortiz Franklin and Nick Melvoin.
Throughout his decade-plus career, Snyder has created an array of opportunities for students to engage with elected officials. Most notably, Ánimo Pat Brown received the Civic Learning Award, a recognition by the California Department of Education awarded to schools that engage students in civic learning and help prepare the next generation of leaders to participate in our democracy.
At Green Dot Public Schools, we build learning spaces that encourage well-rounded growth. Our teachers work with our students to help them build the skills necessary to be successful in college, leadership, and life. Through our work, we hope to inspire the next generation of leaders who are committed to uplifting and leading their communities.