This summer I had the privilege to attend Young Democrats of America’s High School Leadership Academy in Washington, D.C. with about 40 other bright high school students.
<Editor’s Note: blogger Emily Zheng will be a sophomore at Arcadia High School this fall.>
This unique four-day summer camp focuses on developing the next generation of Democratic Party leaders. Students were provided an inside view of elections, the media, campaign finance, grassroots organizing, interest groups, the legislative process, and careers in politics.
One of the highlights of the camp was learning how important it is to have more women, particularly young women, in politics. Speakers from organizations like EMILY’s List and Women’s Campaign Fund spoke about how women only make up seventeen percent of Congress and how women’s issues usually are able to transcend party issues, making the difference of parties secondary.
Additionally, we had sessions on how to use new media and its impact on political campaigns, the role of Federal Lobbyists and what makes “good lobbying,” and the work the Democratic National Committee does for campaigns.
Another highlight of the camp was the chance to discuss with Egyptian students about the impact social media had on the revolution in Egypt, the electoral college, and what the students believe will happen in Egypt’s future. It was enlightening to hear the experiences the Egyptian students had throughout the revolution and to hear what really happened. It still amazes me how the revolution started with a simple Facebook event, calling to all friends, classmates, and family to join together to demand change.
Later that day, there was a Congressional Staff Briefing, where the staff of Party leaders gave us students an inside look at working on Capitol Hill. We had the privilege to hear House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speak to us about how to make United States overcome its difficulties, from being self-reliant by making products in the United States, to amending the Constitution to overturn “Citizens United” to building infrastructure in America. We all received a copy of her new book, Know Your Power, and many, myself included, had the opportunity to shake Leader Pelosi’s hand. Her daughter, Christine Pelosi, was our dinner speaker and spoke about what one must do to run for office.
Lastly, in groups of seven, we worked on a winning campaign plan for former Congressional candidates. My group designed a campaign plan for Congress Tom Perriello of Virginia’s 5th district. On the last day, we presented our plans and had feedback from our candidates on how close our campaign plan resembled theirs when they ran.
Overall, Young Democrats of America’s High School Leadership Academy was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned a lot about politics, from campaigning to working on Capitol Hill, and hope to return to Washington, D.C. sometime in the future!
– By Emily Zheng