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The Bus Comes To Seattle

By Amy Lin, YI National Campaign Coordinator

The Young Invincibles Bus Tour has now been all across the country, from Miami to Milwaukee to Portland and we just finished Seattle.  We’ve hosted over 75 youth roundtables on 40 campuses over the course of 40 days, and we are not done yet.  My friends ask, “What’s it like?  What are you hearing from young people?”  To give you a sense, I wrote up this description of our recent visit to Seattle which involved a variety of great local partners and supporters including the Seattle Foundation, Seattle EarthCorps, and the Washington Bus.  We are especially appreciative of the Seattle Foundation for supporting our events in Seattle and making this part of the trip such a success.

On Saturday, April 21, our decked-out tour bus full of staff, volunteers and partners made the trek from Portland to Seattle for 3 days of events with young adults in the area.  Once we got to Seattle, we kicked things off with our partners at the Washington Bus, joining their “Ready Set Organize” conference at the University of Washington-Seattle campus.  We talked to dozens of students about how to get involved, have a voice, and become active both locally and nationally with elected officials.  We shared our Take Action Toolkit, which offers concrete ways for students to become advocates.

On Sunday, we met with local young entrepreneurs over brunch to discuss their challenges and excitement in starting a business.  During the discussion they shared their ideas on how to reduce barriers to youth entrepreneurship.  For these entrepreneurs as well as others we have met with, mentorship for careers and starting a business have been critical keys to success.  For our next stop that afternoon, we had been invited to join a family BBQ in Bellevue.  Winston Lofton, National Field Director at the Roosevelt Campus Network, had been traveling with us on the Bus at different points throughout the trip, and he invited us to come visit his family and get some food.  It was a relaxing afternoon, and it was great to talk about what we were doing with some of Winston’s older family members.  They said it gave them hope to see young people so engaged and ready to change the world.  We even took a big group photo in front of the bus.

On Monday, we had a series of events throughout Seattle.  We started with a roundtable with members and staff from Seattle EarthCorps, a program that works with young adults to lead environmental service projects in the community.  The Corp members talked about the passion for the environment that brought them to this job, and reflected on the economic challenges they faced in paying off student loans or finding long-term employment.  Health care was a big topic of discussion.  One young woman had been uninsured for two years prior to joining EarthCorps.  Another young man shared his story about how he and his wife are having a child, but the birth will cost $3,000 because of their high deductible.  The group of young adults we met with was very supportive of the health care law, believing it is important that everyone has access to basic coverage.  But they had questions about how much coverage would cost and about the mandate.  As we’ve seen around the country, there is a huge need for more education about what the health care law actually means for young people.

In the early afternoon, we had our next roundtable, with about 40 African-American and Hispanic high school students from the Community Schools Collaborative program at Tyee Senior High School.  Doing any event with 40 high school students is never easy, so we split up into smaller groups and led discussions about their plans for college, their careers, and their concerns about the future.  We heard many students discussing their plans to attend college, which was great to hear.  We saw clearly the value of an organization that invests and provides guidance to young people, and the importance of strong, unbiased information as youth make career and educational decisions.  There is still more work to be done on the information front.  For example, one sophomore told us she was planning on attending a local for-profit school because she’d seen the advertisements on TV.  We suggested she do more research into her options, as many for-profits have low graduation rates and provide low value to students.

Our last event in Seattle was at the Straley House for homeless youth in Seattle.  The House is run by YouthCare Catalyst and provides low-barrier shelter and support services for about 12 homeless youth between ages 18 to 21.   Our Deputy Director, Jen Mishory attended their community meeting and talked to the young residents about some of the challenges they face in going back to school or finding decent employment. Getting a driver’s license was one major hurdle many residents faced in landing a job at a local Starbucks or retail store, as schools no longer teach driver’s education and it’s too expensive to afford on their own.   Jen talked to the residents about how they and their organization could advocate for these kinds of local policy changes.

And with that last event, the Bus Tour left Seattle.  At the events, we collected 75 surveys and shared our consumer education resources, like the “Skills That Work” and Health Care Toolkits.  We heard some very specific ideas including expanding youth mentorship programs and lowering barriers to getting a driver’s license.  These solutions are a sampling of the voices and solutions we will take to policymakers in D.C. and around the country.  We also engaged with young adults from diverse backgrounds and talked to them about how they can become advocates for our future.  For follow-up, we’ll be arranging a call with all our local partners to create connections across youth communities and talk about some of the policies that we could work on together with their members.  We’ll also be offering media training to our young participants,  and helping to book them on local and national media so their voices are heard.  The Bus Tour is just the start in the process of engaging and empowering the voices of our generation.

I just wanted to again extend our thanks and appreciation to the Seattle Foundation for helping to sponsor our Seattle Bus Tour activities and making this work possible.  The Bus Tour is set to hit a total of 21 states and we wrap things up with a big event in DC on May 8.  Stay tuned for more updates from the road.