The Annual Washington, D.C. Fly-in
Girls Inc. was thrilled to host the 7th cohort of the *National Teen Advocacy Council (TAC) in Washington D.C. this July for the annual TAC Fly-in! The four-day event marked the culmination of the TAC members’ participation in the year-long advocacy and leadership program, as well as providing them with a meaningful experience to build upon their skills and grow as advocates. After engaging virtually throughout the year, the TAC members were elated to have this in-person gathering and opportunity to voice their desire for change at the highest level of government.
During their time in DC, the TAC members came together to build sisterhood, strengthen their advocacy and leadership skills, and lobby on Capitol Hill. The group passionately voiced their opinions and advocated for critical issues affecting girls, specifically school discipline reform and comprehensive sex education.
*The TAC is a leadership body of Girls Inc. girls (grades 10-12), who advise and inform our organization’s advocacy by sharing their life experiences and views about issues facing girls and youth in their schools and communities. Throughout this year-long leadership position, TAC members develop their advocacy skills from National staff and issue experts, represent Girls Inc. in different ways, and lead Girls Inc. advocacy efforts through activities such as social media campaigns and lobbying Congressional offices.
The 2022-2023 Teen Advocacy Council is composed of twelve inspiring girls passionate about advocacy representing ten Girls Inc. affiliates and all Girls Inc. regions across the U.S. and Canada.
Meetings on Capitol Hill
Leading up to the Fly-in, TAC members learned from experts in the field, gained skills training, and got first-hand experience advocating for policy change at the local level. Once prepared, they convened in Washington, DC, where they lobbied three Congressional offices to advocate for and raise awareness about the Ending PUSHOUT Act of 2023 (H.R. 2690) and the Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act of 2023 (H.R. 3583 and S. 1697).
During their meetings (pictured above), the Girls Inc. TAC members met with several key congressional staff members, including Judith Teruya, Senior Legislative Assistant for Congresswoman Grace Meng, and Chloe Anduiza, Legislative Correspondent for Congresswoman Grace Meng. The teen advocates also met with Meagan Thompson, Senior Adviser to Congresswoman Robin Kelly, and Nicholas Pennington, Legislative Director for Congresswoman Nikema Williams. TAC members laid out the case for their request – that the Members of Congress cosponsor these bills and prioritize the needs of students in their districts. They briefed the congressional staffers on the importance of the Ending PUSHOUT Act and the Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act, shared their own personal testimonials, anecdotes, and stories to further highlight how these issues impact themselves and their peers. Staff members universally commented on how valuable it was to hear directly from those impacted, which resulted in positive remarks from staff.
Reflecting on Lobby Day
The lobby meetings on Capitol Hill left the TAC with a profound understanding that their voices can indeed be heard and acknowledged; lobbying at the federal level turned out to be much more accessible and reassuring than expected. Trinity, of Girls Inc. of Chattanooga, reflected on how she learned that anyone can raise their voice and that one story can lead to instrumental change. With Representative Meng’s office, Trinity spoke about the history behind the inspiration for the Menstrual Equity for All Act and how the bill “started with a teen who simply wrote a letter to the Congresswoman. You’d think it has to be extremely formal, but it can be as simple as a phone call or letter that can grab their attention and affect change.”
As testament to this, we learned in the days following the Fly-in that the TAC had succeeded in convincing Rep. Grace Meng to cosponsor H.R.3583 – the Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act of 2023! The TAC’s passion and hard work created positive change.
Several TAC members had the opportunity to meet with various media outlets the next day to share their Girls Inc. experiences and raise their voices once more – shedding light on the issues and policies they advocated for at the federal level.
The TAC’s Lobby Day experience left a lasting impact on the members, fueling their motivation to be change agents now and in the future. “To have had this experience broken down and organized for me was very empowering because now I can go back to my community and do it on my own,” Tiegan of Girls Inc. of Lincoln said. “I can now advocate for and institute the change in my community that I want to see without relying on other groups or people.” Calen from Girls Inc. of Chicago also talked about this, stating, “As I am about to start college, being able to talk to people working in our government really informed what I want to pursue in my future. I’m now motivated to study political science and possibly go to law school, too.”