Five high school members of the 2012 Palo Alto Mayor’s Youth Video Corps (YVC) attended the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. These youth had created videos at the behest of Palo Alto Mayor Yiaway Yeh about the city’s infrastructure. This trip was a chance to explore politics on a national level during a historic event. As part of their assignments during the Inauguration, the group blogged each day, interviewed elected officials (17 of them, to be exact!) from all over the country, and created a video on their own personal perspectives.
This trip was the brainchild of former Mayor Yeh who believes it is important to bring youth into the political conversation as early as possible. He looks to develop the public servants and leaders of tomorrow, today: “It is important that youth voices be brought into civic life and for them to know that they can and do make a difference. Just because they don’t vote yet, doesn’t mean they can’t influence policy.”
Mayor Yeh worked with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo’s office and me at the Media Center (MC) to secure tickets. I then worked with Southwest Airlines Community Affairs Manager Kim Delevett to secure roundtrip airfare for the youth. The MC is a non-profit community TV station located in Palo Alto with a mission of civic engagement and empowerment through video. With the transportation and tickets locked down, the five youth, MC intern Wes Rapaport and I caught a 7am Southwest flight to Dulles on Friday, January 18.
Members of the Youth Video Corps (YVC) arrive at the Southwest ticket counter
Over the weekend, the youth - Alec Furrier, Caroline Clark, Dakota Baker, Kenny Jones and Nitya Kasturi - interviewed elected officials at the National Association of Broadcasters. Southwest’s own Kim Delevett, in town on Southwest business, had a warm visit with the students and encouraged them in their work.
Members of the Youth Video Corps (YVC) in Washington, D.C. to view the Inaugural Parade
Sunday evening, the youth attended a special reception hosted by the Democratic Municipal Officials organization and captured additional interviews of the guests. Then on Monday, along with the country, the youth witnessed the Inauguration from the National Mall and watched the Inaugural parade with officials from around the country from the birds-eye view of the National League of Cities office.
Youth Video Corps (YVC) member Dakota Baker interviews Mayor Lerner
The next day, originally the YVC’s last day, featured a tour of the White House. When rumors flew that a special someone was on site, the youth took a vote and decided to risk missing their late afternoon flight. It was the right choice: the video team was greeted by President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their dog Bo in the Blue Room of the White House!
Members of the Youth Video Corps (YVC), Wes Rapaport and Malia Clark, greet the President and the First lady at the White House
“I decided to join the YVC because it sounded like a very fun and exciting way to get involved with my community, which I felt somewhat detached from,” said Dakota Baker. “I am also interested in politics and thought I could learn about how things work in my local government through my participation in the YVC. My experiences in D.C. have made me realize just how many people are needed to run this country and how much it relies on each and every person. This trip has left me with a better understanding of the responsibility of local government and the importance of political participation. I am now more interested in pursuing a career in public service and politics.”
It was a fairy tale. The kids were blown away by their good fortune, but it took Southwest to get us there and we are completely stoked about Southwest. Southwest is the best!