Learning that My Voice Matters

My name is Oliver Peña. I’m 18 years old and about to embark on my senior year of high school at Urban Assembly School for Careers in Sports. I was fortunate to be a part of Generation Citizen this past spring and am excited to be a 2015 Community Change Fellow, working in the office of City Councilman Donavan Richards. At first I was not interested, but then I realized that this program gives voice to young adults such as myself. My experience with GC turned out to be amazing – it made me realize that, with team work, you can do it all.
There were four highlights to my GC experience. The first was seeing my class’s GC poster completed. It was good to see that my team’s hard work paid off. Next was attending Civics Day and seeing the work of middle and high school students from all five boroughs of NYC. My team and I chose police brutality as our focus issue, since so many students in my school have been affected by it, myself included. The third highlight was presenting our hard work to the students and judges. It felt good answering questions about our project and educating others on the issue.
Finally, I was excited to be awarded the Student Changemaker Award at the end of the semester. As someone who has not received much acknowledgment in life, I was surprised to be nominated by my Democracy Coaches. I am thankful for my team, fellow students, teachers and GC family for giving me an award I value so much.
GC prepared me for the amazing summer I am having now. I learned how to identify community issues and root causes, work with community members to address issues, write a speech, write letters to elected officials and, how to identify tactics and targets. At first, I felt like these skills were not necessary, however, I quickly realized that in order to become vocal one must be informed! Additionally, all of these skills proved to be essential for my fellowship within the NYC City Council.
So far, I’ve attended state meetings and press conferences, met with various council members and commissioners, worked on projects such as Glossary for zoning, and, attended the annual city council outing. Recently, the team and I completed a project which provides diagrams and key definitions of zoning to members of our office. Working for the council member has been a great experience, because I am able to see firsthand what he does and how he juggles a lot of people’s interests.
To date, I have learned so much from my fellowship and our amazing trainers. Albina , Anne and Frank , have all challenged me to be present, vocal and open to new ideas . The same can be said for each of my co-fellows, all of which bring different ideas and knowledge to the CCF experience.
Now that I know my voice matters, no matter my age, I plan to connect with my council member Fernando Cabreja. I would like to serve under his leadership and my community in the Bronx, while remaining a member of the Generation Citizen family.
Generation Citizen is a nonpartisan, 501(c)3 tax exempt organization which does not endorse candidates; our goal is to engage our staff, participants, and stakeholders in political and civic action on issues that matter to them personally and in their communities. The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the writer alone and do not reflect the opinions of Generation Citizen.