Student Advocates Share their Stories in Sacramento


Lauren Hsu

Portola staff meet with the advocates in a lunchtime panel on March 9 to discuss district concerns like textbook funding and standards-based grading. The team has participated in several similar panels with various officials and education specialists to receive feedback and become more familiar with the issues that IUSD faces.

Lauren Hsu, Staff Writer

Seniors Dheitshaa Bala, Alex Cherry, Annika Lai, Eden Yeh and junior Ariana Wu will travel to Sacramento on March 10 to advocate for policies regarding state budgeting and spending on public education that will benefit the Irvine Unified School District.  

Advocate groups have been shifting their focus in recent years to securing financial support for mental health programs. IUSD is one of the lowest funded school districts in the nation, according to the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, and this deficit directly impacts the number of wellness campaigns and coordinators that schools have access to. 

“I hope we get the message across that we need to reposition how the money is distributed in the district,” Lai said. “Advocacy is a really great way to go up there and tell people and be heard…You just become more comfortable, especially when it’s about something you’re passionate about. As cliche as it is, you just speak from the heart.”

While the team will only be in Sacramento for one day, they must undergo training beforehand to guarantee that their time in the capital is well spent. Event coordinators Jon Resendez and Jeffrey Hernandez selected individuals based on their responses to a series of essay questions and their demonstration of skill and passion for advocacy in an interview. Student preparation includes panel discussions with IUSD officials, weekly team meetings and months of dedicated research to ensure that they are informed on the topics they will be discussing.

“When we have a student advocate group, lawmakers especially pay attention because we’re a group of well-spoken and prepared kids who know what we’re talking about,” Cherry said. “We’re a new face; we’re a new view. We’re able to show how important these things are, and we’re able to show that we’re capable of being in these discussions.”

The advocates will meet with elected officials and lobbyists for the entire day, sharing their personal stories and the experiences of the student body they represent. While the team is mostly advocating for the same topics as they have in previous years, they are hoping that this trip will influence a new change in policymakers’ perspectives and resolve some of the issues that were left undecided. 

“I hope they’ll feel empowered to be a part of the process. I hope they’ll feel like their day wasn’t wasted, that people listened even if they didn’t initially agree,” social studies teacher and advocacy coordinator Jon Resendez said. “We want them to feel empowered, and then we want the other students, by seeing them as an example, to also feel empowered to make a difference in their government and in their community.”