Girls Inc. was thrilled to host the 6th cohort of the National Teen Advocacy Council (TAC) for the annual Fly-in in Washington, D.C.! The four-day Fly-in served as the culmination of each teen’s participation in this year-long advocacy program. After two years of virtually hosting the TAC Fly-in, Girls Inc. was excited to finally host an in-person experience. Throughout the event, teens from across the Girls Inc. network came together to build sisterhood, strengthen their advocacy and leadership skills, and meet with Congressional staffers and government officials. The group used their honed skills to voice their opinions and advocate for different issues like school discipline reform and menstrual equity. This year’s cohort represented 6 U.S. states, one Canadian province, and 8 Girls Inc. affiliates.
Meetings on the Hill
This year, the TAC met with a number of prominent women in government including DC Councilmember Brooke Pinto, Monalisa Dugué (Chief of Staff for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse), Sonja Breda (Legislative Correspondent for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and former Girls Inc. employee), and Judith Teruya (Legislative Assistant for Congresswoman Grace Meng). These inspirational women in leadership positions listened to the TAC voice their concerns and recommendations regarding issues they are passionate about. The advice of such powerful speakers allowed the TAC to reflect on the importance of compromise as a tool in policy change, while also staying true to their values.
“Thanks to the TAC Fly-in, I was able to hear about many strong women’s personal paths to reach their impressive positions in their careers. They all emphasized the importance of doing what you are passionate about and not to worry too much about what comes next, because everyone’s individual path is unique,” Ayana of Girls Inc. of Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey later reflected.
Advocacy in Action
Throughout the year, the TAC participated in monthly virtual meetings to discuss a number of issues including those featured in Girls Inc.’s Advocacy and Policy Platform. The Fly-in provided them the opportunity to learn more about the public policy process, equip them with the skills needed to be changemakers in their communities, and most importantly put their advocacy into action. TAC alumna, Anjali of Girls Inc. of Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, helped the current TAC foster their lobbying skills and shared her own experiences with local and federal advocacy efforts.
The TAC members, along with teens from Girls Inc. of Washington, D.C., participated in a unique school discipline reform focus group to inform how girls can advocate for legislation aimed at making schools safer for girls, particularly girls of color. Girls Inc. teens were able to ensure that their voices were heard and ultimately reflected in the strengthening of Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley’s Ending PUSHOUT Act (EPA) and the Building Just Schools Act.
The TAC also had the opportunity to discuss their ideas for menstrual equity policy with government officials working directly on the issue. The group concluded the Fly-in by bundling period products for the Greater DC Diaper Bank which provides basic baby needs and personal hygiene products to families and individuals throughout D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
The Teen Advocacy Council has now left Washington, D.C. equipped and motivated to push for change in their local communities and beyond.
Michelle of Girls Inc. of Alameda County shared how the TAC Fly-in impacted her: “My main takeaway is that it’s okay to not know what you want to do, as long as you are continuously educating yourself to further your advocacy work. I’m really happy that I was able to get to know this amazing group of girls through the TAC fly-in and I’m excited to see our futures.”
Many TAC members already have concrete plans to bring the skills and lessons they learned in D.C. back to their communities. Witnessing the TAC members’ confidence in their advocacy skills grow during the Fly-in was a reminder of exactly why Girls Inc. does this work and we are so grateful to have had the opportunity to uplift our next generation of leaders.