If I would have harbored any expectations about volunteering with Voices for Children this year, they would have been completely blown out of the water. I never could have guessed the amount of information I would learn in such a short time, the level of dedication of the Voices team, nor the real and lasting impact that the organization has on the lives of young people in Nebraska. It was an honor to spend this year learning about advocacy and working towards social justice alongside the knowledgeable and passionate members of the Voices team.
There is a lot that goes into providing an accurate picture of life for children in Nebraska as well as advocating ways to ensure equitable opportunity for all kids regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, economic situation, or geographical location. I feel fortunate that I was able to explore the many aspects of the important work that Voices does – and there was never a shortage of work to be done. I began the year by simply learning about the legislative process and the Unicameral structure unique to Nebraska. I went on to help out with the Race Matters conference in which we aimed to address current racial disparities that inhibit children of color in reaching successful outcomes. I also spent a lot of time researching and writing fact sheets on pertinent issues as well as testimony for legislative bills during session.
This year has taught me a great deal about what it really means to be an advocate for change. Through participating in and observing the process of policy work – from research, to gathering personal stories, to fostering connections in the community, and coming up with effective solutions – I have gained valuable insight and experience. Social justice issues are vastly interconnected and I hope to use what I have learned to advocate for change wherever I find myself in the future. For now, that will be back home in Suttons Bay, MI. I am excited to be near again to the beautiful lakes that I rave so much about and start my new position there with the Migrant Head Start, but I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to make Omaha my home for a year and I will dearly miss everyone at Voices!