On June 11, 2019, Young Invincibles celebrated its 10-Year anniversary in Washington, D.C. at the Pearl Street Warehouse. Shannon Jones, a YI advocate from California, shared her story and YI’s impact in her life. The text of her remarks are below.
Good evening everyone,
It is such a pleasure and honor to be here on this special occasion. I want to say thank you to Rachel Fleischer, Kristin McGuire, and Elaine de Leon for presenting me with this opportunity to speak.
So, a little about me: My name is Shannon Jones. I’m a graduate of California State Polytechnic University Pomona. A member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc, and when I grow up I want to be a doctor.
I’ve volunteered with multiple organizations throughout my life, but I truly did not understand my definition of who I am as an advocate until I was introduced to Young Invincibles.
I first became familiar with YI in 2015 by participating in a focus group about young adults and health insurance. The questions asked were well beyond my knowledge or recollection of how the health care system works. I’ll never forget the reaction of my peers when we were simply asked: “do you have health insurance?” It was a conversation many of us were actually embarrassed to have in front of our peers. And it was because of a simple truth: We didn’t know the answers.
We’d come to learn, it’s a layered question, unveiling “qualifications” that also ask: What’s your socio-economic status, do your parents have health insurance, what is your immigration status?
Instead of having a focus group structured as a survey, it was more of a must-needed, informative conversation. It wasn’t that we didn’t want health care, of course we want to be insured. We merely didn’t know how to enroll, and for those of us already insured, how to seek care. This isolating, yet eye-opening experience made me realize that health care shouldn’t be an individual issue, it’s a community issue.
After speaking with Kristin during a one-on-one meeting, I was selected to participate in YI-West’s Young Advocates leadership development program. Accompanied with great support, instruction, and reference, I have witnessed an astronomical change in how I perceive the world.
With Young invincibles, I have been equipped with what I call Advocate Armor:
- Empathy: to understand issues and barriers of others even if it isn’t my own
- Passion: to get up and fight for change daily, and
- Focus: to strive for fact-based policy making in order to do what’s right.
I have learned effective acts of social change, the significance of storytelling, and the impact of good public policy. Most importantly, I have learned how to develop a plan of action.
On a personal note, during the program, I endured a life-altering health crisis. I was in and out of doctor’s offices having multiple procedures and surgeries. And because of my work with YI, for the first time, I felt empowered. YI gave me confidence. I began to use my voice as an advocacy tool during my own treatment. I was no longer suffering in silence. And then, I influenced my peers to do the same.
I have friends and family that ration their health care by deciding if food or rent is more important. Feeling better is expensive but chronic pain is free. The financial burden of medical bills, follow-up appointments, paying for medication, or transportation to seek treatment continues to deter young adults from getting medical attention. My dad, though eligible for retirement, continues to work for his employer just so I may stay covered under the “covered until 26” provision of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
I cannot imagine living without health insurance. My life depends on it. I cannot imagine young adults living without health care. And last month, through YI, I was able to meet with our own Governor Newsom to share just that. I recognize my privilege in having care. And I want to make sure all my peers have the same access.
And guess what, yesterday, while I was traveling here I read that Governor Newsom’s first budget includes funding to do just that! California lawmakers are poised to offer low-income, undocumented young adults living in California access to full health benefits, putting the state on track to become the first in the country to expand its insurance program to ALL working poor under the age of 26 regardless of immigration status!!
I believe my work with YI will never stop. I have a deep connection with this organization that I will forever be grateful for. Young Invincibles has provided me with more depth in my social responsibility to amplify the voices of marginalized communities. Because of this organization, I understand my purpose of being a vessel and providing a platform to educate.