Today I visited City Heights Prep, a high school in the City Heights community of San Diego, one of the most diverse communities in the region. I spoke to a Student Government Club about politics, foster care, Trump, and getting involved. It was so rewarding and fulfilling that I wanted to write about it. And it was a good reminder of why I am so committed to running a successful campaign to be the next member of the Board of Supervisors. Here’s what happened.
I drove down a broken street, lined with broken cars and saw more than a few homeless people whose spirits appeared broken. I had no idea what to expect when I walked through the school gates, but I know even the communities most in need of environmental and social justice have a strong energy and vibrancy, and I assumed these children would be no different. They did not disappoint. I was a guest speaker for an after-school club, and before we even got started these young, ambitious students came up to me, looked me squarely in the eye and repeatedly extended firm handshakes that would have made my father (and my wife) proud.
I stood in the front of the classroom and told a story. The first time I told my story of being a foster child in San Diego was to an audience of children. Then, much as it is now, I told that story to inspire young people with a very simple message: no matter what life puts in front of you nor how little control you feel you have, education is like a golden ticket that no one can ever take away from you. I told them how I wasn’t a great student until I was in college, but I didn’t let that stop me. I explained that I’d grown up in foster care. I know from sharing this in the past that sometimes there are a few kids from really tough circumstances, and seeing me as living proof that their dreams are possible is so rewarding I can barely put it into words.
A young girl asked me if I’d ever seen unfairness toward girls in my work. I told her I had. I don’t beat around the bush with young people, their BS meters are strong. But I also told her that my answer isn’t as important as the solution. I asked the boys in the classroom if they intended to discriminate against their sisters or cousins or friends who were girls. Of course they all said no. Then I turned to the girls and said that the change is in their courage to demand their place in the world and in how they teach their little brothers. Then I said the same to the boys. I watched the energy in their faces and the hope in their eager eyes and my heart was just flying. I’d make time every day if I could to have these conversations with kids.
As I left, two young girls walked me out. One little girl in a hijab pushed open the gate and thanked me for coming. Then the other little girl looked up at me and said, “I was in Polinsky, too.” I told her I went into the system before there was a Polinsky Center, but I looked her in the eye and reminded her that no matter what life had dealt her to that date she had the power and the ability to do whatever she wanted in life. It felt great. And it was a moment of clarity for me about why I am so determined to make sure that every child in every neighborhood in San Diego County has support from the time they are born until they are an adult. I am so grateful for this opportunity to drive change in my hometown. Today was really just fantastic.