When Willard Middle School 8th grader Lexie Tesch and her classmates chose to challenge youth and LGBTQ+ homelessness in Berkeley by advocating for funding for the city’s first year-round youth shelter, they realized that in order for things to get better in their community, they had a big role to play.
The class’ goal was to persuade Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, who represents the Downtown Berkeley area, to pass a resolution to fund a year-round youth homeless shelter. The class split into six groups, each focused on a different target who could help persuade Mr. Arreguin. More than halfway through the semester and after much persistence by the class, Mr. Arreguin visited Willard to listen to a presentation by the students. He informed them that he was definitely in favor of funding for the shelter, but could not implement their proposal on his own. Instead, the class needed to get seven council members to vote to make it happen. Mr. Arreguin would introduce the resolution in a February 2016 council meeting. In preparation, the class pushed forward with presenting petitions to the Berkeley City Council and producing letters of support, so that when the time comes to vote, the Council will be fully informed about the importance of this issue in the community.
..[Our] voices do matter and adults should care what we have to say. If we do not speak up now, then when we are adults we will be the ones stuck trying to solve problems within our community… I have the hope that everybody in this room will take an action to improve our society. We are the voices. We are the future. We are the change makers.