By Neha Jain Patkar, Blue Future Spring for Progress and Change organizer
When I began the Spring For Progress and Change Program early this year, I had no idea how much growth it would bring to me and how it would allow me to empower my community. With the structure and support of Blue Future’s Spring program, I have been able to set the foundation for a Youth Advisory Council for my Representative, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), and am currently working closely with a staff member in the office to establish the council and begin in the near future.
The process of creating a Youth Advisory Council was not an easy one, especially working independently. I was lucky to have the support of Blue Future’s staff and their network of connections and resources from which I could draw. One of my bigger fears going into this project was that I would not be taken seriously by the adults in the Congresswoman’s office and that I would not even be given the chance to present my idea and vision. However, I was very incorrect — I reached out to the office and got a prompt and enthusiastic response, and in my very first meeting I felt like I was given a platform and space to share what I wanted to see in the Council and how I hoped to go about the creation. I learned that politicians and those in power not only value the youth voice’s but rely on them in order to make well-informed decisions and learn what is important to the emerging generation that is already being handed the torch. I also realized that I should not have felt surprised or lucky that the office of the Congresswoman wanted to hear my idea, as this is their job: to listen to constituents and act in the best interest of constituents, especially including young people.
Through this project, I also gained significant professional skills. I had to reach out to the Congresswoman’s office independently and in a professional manner, schedule and conduct a meeting with legislative staff, and have since participated in several brainstorming and planning meetings filled with Congressional staffers, education professionals, and other working peoples. I have at times felt out of my element and out of place in these settings as a young woman of color, but have also learned how to take more space and push for my goals to be realized. Taking space is a process that is difficult for me regardless, but is especially true in a setting of all adults who are experts in various tangentially related fields. The process of imagining and establishing the Youth Advisory Council has allowed me to practice essential skills in a workplace environment that I can continue to learn and as a result, I am slowly gaining more comfort and confidence in myself.
I am extremely grateful for all that I have learned through Blue Future’s Spring for Progress and Change Program and through the process of creating a Youth Advisory Council in my community. I am excited to take my organizing skills beyond and into a more just future.
About Neha: Neha Jain Patkar (she/her) is a sophomore at Stanford University majoring in Human Biology with a concentration in Environmental Health & Policy and minoring in Spanish. She is passionate about climate and health justice, and how we can create a more just future for our generation and beyond. She is lucky to have been part of Blue Future’s community since September of 2020.