This is My Capitol - Women's Foundation California

This year’s final WPI retreat took place earlier this month. Can you share with us your favorite moment from this retreat?

On the second day of the retreat we were invited to the Governor’s Council Room where we heard from Mona Pasquil, California’s Appointments Secretary, a third generation Filipina and the first women of color to be appointed to this position.

After the session, the WPI teams broke out to do some legislative visits and lobby for their specific policy projects while I went to drop off an award to Assemblymember John A. Peréz, whom we honored at our 7th Annual Legislative Reception the night before. As I made my way to his office, I kept seeing WPI fellows left and right.

It was incredible to see them walking down those halls and witness their presence and their power in the Capitol, California’s political hub.  They walked with such purpose and confidence, as if saying, This is MY Capitol. I run this place.

This year’s fellows are working on some very important bills. Can you describe for us one or two bills they’re working on?

This year we had seven teams and each team worked on a different bill. For example, our Reproductive Justice team worked on AB 2015. This bill is known as “Calls for Kids” and it gives parents in California, regardless of their immigration status or language proficiency, the ability to make arrangements for their children at the moment of their arrest.

This bill has passed through the Assembly and we had two Republicans vote for it. That was a huge accomplishment! And it happened because the Reproductive Justice team worked diligently with both Republicans and Democrats to convince them of this bill’s importance.  (To support this bill, sign this petition!)

At the same time, our Healthy Youth Development team worked on AB 2145. This bill would require the Department of Education to make discipline data publicly available online. School Districts would be required to collect data on the number of students who are suspended and expelled each year and this data would then be placed on the Department of Education website.

The purpose of this bill is to promote alternatives to expulsion and suspension, which are ultimately harming the students and the communities that these students live in. (To support AB 2145, sign this petition!)

What would you say is the most powerful aspect of this fellowship program?

I have heard many fellows say that this is a life-changing experience. You put a lot of work into this program and you get to walk away with so much. You work with a solid, strong team of people and you make long lasting relationships. You hone your public speaking and networking skills and you learn how to have an impact on the legislative process, which is huge.

Also, this program has a lot to do with self-empowerment. For some fellows this was the first time that they interacted with an assembly member or a senator, walked into the Capitol, made a legislative visit, and represented themselves as experts in their communities.

Knowing how the policy process works, how a bill becomes a law, how to lobby for a law, and accomplish change in California is incredibly empowering.

How would you describe working with WPI fellows?

I was inspired, impressed, awed, and touched at different times. I laughed and I cried.

For example, during our closing circle at the end of the retreat, we heard from one of our fellows, Monica Flores, who is now 18 years old. She’s our youngest WPI fellow, is a mother to a 3-year-old and she works at the Center for Young Women’s Development, our grant partner.

It was amazing to hear her speak and hear what WPI has meant for her. She shared that at 14 she got pregnant and was told that she would never amount to anything. And yet, she has come so far. It made me realize just how important this program is and how you can never underestimate the impact a program like this can have.  (Read our blog post about Monica.)

The entire experience was very moving for me personally. Most of all, it was a humbling experience to sit in a room with such powerful women who have had similar experiences and have faced very similar challenges and barriers.

*The Women’s Policy Institute (WPI) offers women activists and grassroots organizations an unparalleled opportunity to participate in an intensive, year-long, experiential training program. In the last nine years, the institute fellows have helped pass 14 groundbreaking laws on issues such as human trafficking, childcare, consumer health and safety, social and human services.

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