Every summer, the Bank of America Student Leaders take a week-long trip to Washington D.C. to learn about opportunities across the country for young people to have an active voice in their communities. Below is Zoe's account from her experience in summer 2016.
When I reflect back on my trip to Washington, D.C., while my mind is drawn to key memories, it is the people who really stood out. The summit's motto was "Serve, Inspire, Change" and it was clear how important social advocacy was to all that attended. Two hundred and twenty students from around the country had come to discuss modern day issues and how to best solve them. To me the theme of the week was passion, and it gave me a lot of hope towards how my generation is going to impact our country.
There were ten workshops that each had a Bank of America Student Leader and a Close Up Leader, with 22 Student Leaders. I was a part of Workshop seven, which was led by Virginia, sweet and encouraging, and Michael, insightful and funny. Each workshop consisted of debating current issues from the presidential election to how the country is remedying homelessness to the changes we, as the youth, want to see. Throughout the workshops we were challenged to consider how the government, businesses, nonprofits and individuals played roles in change. My workshop was very diverse in every aspect, whether it was the way we looked or the way we thought. So often it's hard to see outside your own beliefs, but in my workshop people went above and beyond to understand where other people's views came from and then took those ideas to reflect back on their own.
One of my favorite memories was participating in our mock congress. We started out with debating an issue within our workshops. My workshop had the Students VOTE bill which would allow schools and agencies to apply for money to educate high school seniors on the voting process. I went to the pro side, and I was selected as a debater. Each side had an opening and closing argument, and three arguments in between; 30 seconds each. There were four judges who would decide who won. For the pro side we talked about equal access to voter education, and how this is necessary to engage young people and to empower people to vote. The con side talked about how the program would be redundant and cost taxpayers money. The pro side won, and Karlos and I were selected to represent our team in the next tier of mock congress. This time Karlos was the chairman, and I was a lobbyist who had four minutes to convince a committee of 22 people to pass this bill to the floor of congress. After I passionately delivered my speech, my opposition took the stage, and I wasn't allowed to see. Unfortunately, the bill was killed, but it was an exhilarating experience that I won't forget.
The best part was when we got to go to Capitol Hill for the day. My market and I got to speak with aids from both Brendan Boyle's and Pat Toomey's office. I of course had about a million questions for each of them. As a new voter, I wanted to know what my representatives had accomplished, but more importantly what they were doing to combat the current issues. My questions focused on criminal justice reform, funding for education, police brutality, and accountability in congress. It was a great experience to see what our representatives were up to, their viewpoints, and to get an idea of just how much aids do for their bosses. Another amazing aspect of the day was sitting on two committee hearings. The first hearing discussed creating mobile healthcare apps, where apps could make diagnoses, and connect you to your healthcare provider. The second hearing we sat in on was debating the medical benefits of marijuana, and how the classification of the drug right now was making it difficult to distribute for medical needs, and to research. The day affirmed my notion that I wanted to be in politics, and gave me ideas of some of the jobs I could be doing.
When it came to the end of the week, everyone was exhausted, but also incredibly appreciative. To be able to spend a week with people so dedicated to positive change was a unique and gratifying experience that I don't think anyone could ever forget. When I look back at the time I spent I will remember the incredible people I worked with, the inspirational speakers, and to not lose hope, because there are so many people fighting the good fight.
About Zoe Schwingel-Sauer:
Zoe Schwingel-Sauer is the current intern in the Communications and Marketing Department at PYN, and is a Bank of America Student Leader. In the fall, she will attend the University Pennsylvania to major in Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics (PPE), and minor in French.