Youth Summit allows students to raise their voices on public policy
The island youth is stepping up and speaking out on local public policies they believe need to be acted on.
"I genuinely wanted to learn about the issues that are currently going on in our island and also how I can collaborate with other people to gain an understanding of how I can make a change." John F. Kennedy High School junior Marina Babauta said.
Wanting to do her part as a student and voice her opinions to make a difference, she along with various Close-Up organization students within Guam high schools are participating in the 10th Annual Youth Summit, hosted by the Global Civic Education nonprofit, the Close-Up Foundation.
Representatives from Washington, D.C. conducted the three-day summit that provided students with the opportunity to create a legislative proposal based on issues that matter to them and their local communities.
"So students first deliberate with students from their own school, but also from across the island about different issues that are affecting them," Danny Hastings program, a specialist from the foundation said. "They come up with issue statements and then policy proposals to address those issues that they then present to each other, so they can see the work that they have done as a group. They vote on them and they get to present them to members of the legislature."
He said the proposals pertained to public policies such as military buildup, decolonization, education, cultural affairs and the environment.
"They take a big, broad category and think about all the different issues that might fall under that umbrella," Hastings said.
Under the umbrella of energy/environment and natural resources, Marina's committee focused on renewable energy. She says this was a fairly new topic that she was able to learn more on through the summit.
"I wasn't aware of the costs that we are spending on Guam on fossil fuels and things like that so we are learning and shifting our proposal on having Guam more reliable on renewable energy rather than on fossil fuels," Babauta said.
Further stating that once the environment is affected then it turns to us, the people of Guam and takes a toll on the entire climate.
"People are paying out of their pockets for such an expensive energy source where we could be turning to renewable stuff that we already have around us whether it be wind, our sun and our rain, things like that," Babauta said. "It's important to me because first of all the health but also the economic side of things."
The Close-Up Foundation's mission is to inform, inspire and empower young people to become active members in their democracy
As Hastings along with the co-coordinator and manger of the foundation Anna McMullen noted just how in tuned the island's youth are.
"I was very shocked that they knew what was happening as of yesterday and then changed their proposals based on that," McMullen said.
With the opportunity to take action and use her voice, Babauta wants to remind people,"that they matter and what they have to say whether it be on an issue they feel strongly about. It's important to voice it, to let it be known and to create a positive change whenever possible."
These students in attendance were taught that it's always possible and that they are capable to get close up on these policy issues.
The program is made possible through a grant from the Office of Insular Affairs, as the youth summit is held on surrounding territories, next week the Close-Up foundation will be on Saipan and then America Samoa.