By Ellie Fried, Blue Future Spring for Progress and Change organizer
Prior to participating in Blue Future’s Spring for Progress & Change program, I had never heard of a youth advisory council (YAC). When I learned what it was, I thought to myself “How am I going to do that?” Blue Future’s answer: One step at a time.
I began working with the DMV group because I am from Arlington, VA and I currently live there while on my gap year after high school. By week four of the program, I decided it would be more sustainable and worth my effort to join forces with the New England group, because in a few short months, I will be leaving Arlington, VA to start my freshman year at Tufts University.
The New England group is made up of nine smart and motivated women and our project is called the Massachusetts Coalition of Youth Advisory Councils, affectionately known as MACYAC. We have the lofty goal of setting up a youth advisory council for each of the nine Congressional representatives in Massachusetts.
So far we have written MACYAC’s mission and vision statements, created its organization structure, presented at meetings with three out of the nine reps’ offices, launched our social media (@ourmacyac) and website (ourmacyac.wordpress.com), made an interest form, and produced a general timeline which leads to the launch of the individual youth advisory councils this coming fall. We were able to accomplish all this due to our excellent communication, organization, and dedication.
I learned how to create meaningful connections with new people over Slack and Zoom. Each week, a few members of our team volunteered to be meeting lead, notetaker, and liaison to the Blue Future team. The meeting lead set the agenda in advance and we always started each meeting with a fun icebreaker to get to know each other better. Because we rotated roles each week, everyone who wanted had a chance to try something new; I had the opportunity to lead my first meeting ever (on Zoom)! At the end of every meeting, we self-delegated tasks to ensure that everyone knew what they would be working on before our next meeting.
I appreciated how we all showed up with energy and critical thinking, despite our meetings often being late in the evening to fit all our busy schedules. We kept each other in the loop about our changing schedules and remained flexible.
We have encountered difficulties along the way. We haven’t heard back from a couple reps after contacting them multiple times and through multiple avenues. However, we will not give up. We will continue to pressure them until we get an answer. Another struggle is that we mostly have connections to the Greater Boston area, which is why it will be so important to work with the reps’ offices to develop outreach plans to ensure diversity in our YACs.
I have also had individual struggles. There were weeks during the program when I worried that I wasn’t contributing enough time and effort, and other weeks when I felt like I carried a lot of the workload. It’s a constant effort to maintain balance, not without some high stress moments.
I was grateful for the opportunity to further my public speaking skills when giving our schpiel to reps’ offices and presenting to the Blue Future cohort. I had to remind myself to feel accomplished and proud of myself and of my teammates for small things like sending a follow-up email.
I was grateful for the support of the Blue Future cohort and I was inspired by listening and learning from the other YACs. I can see how hard everyone has been working and it makes me excited for our future.
As we transition out of Blue Future’s Spring for Progress & Change program, we are taking time to map out our priorities and next steps for MACYAC and each of our individual plans for future involvement in the development of MACYAC. I will hopefully work on this project in some capacity for the next four years while I’m at Tufts, or until I can give my position to someone who has more stake in MA youth political issues.
About Ellie: Ellie Fried, she/her, is on a gap year prior to attending Tufts University. Currently, she is passionate about providing elementary students with the resources they need to succeed during a pandemic, ensuring equitable vaccine rollout, and teaching tenants and homeowners about how to be more comfortable, more energy efficient, and more economical.