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NYRA Freedom Volume 6, Issue 5

Written by NYRA Mar 29, 2011

NYRA Freedom

ISSN 1933-5229

Scott Davidson and Adam King

Volume 6, Issue 5

May 7, 2006

Contents:

Introduction
NYRA Members Lobby in Sacramento
Voice America Interviews Two Youth Rights Leaders
Congressional Candidate Supports a Lower Voting Age
New York Schools Become More Authoritarian
Feature: Rich Jahn, Member Services Director
Feature: Keep Fighting for Student Representation
Staff Requests
Upcoming Events
News from the Web
Conclusion

Introduction

By Scott Davidson

While things could always be coming along better, there has been a lot to be happy about over the past month. Our members are making waves within the California Democratic Party, and two of our leaders had a successful appearance on a radio program. I have been working my contacts in the New York area to advance the voting age issue, and it is beginning to pay off. While there is not much about it in this issue, Adam King’s campaign for student representation on school boards is something we should be excited about as well.

The one area where NYRA is clearly lacking is fundraising. As I reported in the past two issues, NYRA’s annual fundraiser is underway, but the money is not coming in the way it was last year. It is so crucial that NYRA members donate what they can, so we can continue to pay our Executive Director and operate as a viable organization.

NYRA Members Lobby in Sacramento

By Scott Davidson

A significant number of NYRA members, drawn largely from the Orange Countyand Berkeley chapters, attended the California Democratic Party’s annual convention from April 28-30. NYRA hoped that the California Democratic Party would embrace NYRA’s voting age position as part of its platform, as they recently passed a resolution in support of a lower voting age, which also called for youth participation in many of their internal affairs.

NYRA members were disappointed when they got to the convention and found it was full of ageist bigotry and opposition to a position that the party itself had seemed to embrace less than a year ago. NYRA-OC President Natasha Hull-Richter, who organized the campaign, stated that “appointments to the platform committee were done through nepotism and not through support of Democratic values…those appointed to the committee were strong opponents of youth rights.” One member of the committee, who claimed to be a pediatrician, used the trite, offensive, and easily refuted argument that young people have smaller brains and thus are not capable of making important decisions. The chair of the platform committee denied NYRA members the customary response time, and many NYRA-OC members left the convention early, feeling that the deck was stacked against them.

While the experience with that platform committee was overwhelmingly negative, and many NYRA members left the event disillusioned with the Democratic Party, more good than bad came out of the campaign. While the platform committee essentially shot NYRA down, the 2005 resolution remains the last official word from the California Democratic Party on the voting age issue.

NYRA members also secured the support of several prominent Californiapoliticians who were in attendance. Rep. Maxine Waters, Assemblyman Paul Koretz (who is among the most respected politicians in California), State Controller and leading gubernatorial candidate Steve Wesley, State Senator Jackie Speier and State Senator Deborah Bowen all expressed their support for a lower voting age. Coming just after an endorsement from the Screen Actors Guild, this represents an overwhelming victory for the cause of youth rights. California NYRA members are currently waiting to hear if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is in favor of a lower voting age.

NYRA sends it sincere thanks to all the members who attended this convention, and especially to the politicians who were courageous enough to stand up for youth rights. NYRA would also like the Democratic Party to note that if it wishes to attract the next generation of voters, it should do so by treating them with respect and dignity, not making absurd comments about their brains and denying them the right to present their arguments.

Voice America Interviews Two Youth Rights Leaders

By Adam King

NYRA’s Executive Director Alex Koroknay-Palicz and Professor Mike Males appeared on the Internet radio show, “Advocating America’s Young Adult” for a live interview discussing various aspects of youth rights and problems that face the movement.

On Thursday, April 27, 2006, radio show hosts Chloe White and Charlie Fairchild, two supporters of youth rights, interviewed Males and Koroknay-Palicz for an hour from 8 p.m. ET to 9 p.m. ET. The two leaders were asked questions about NYRA and what all it has accomplished and various issues concerning youth rights. A big highlight of the show was when the two were asked about the recent driving study that Males and NYRA published last month.

Koroknay-Palicz made several mentions of NYRA’s website, but due to the normal lack of visitors nearing the weekend, the website did not receive any more visitors than usual. At the end of the show, two NYRA members, Adam King and Jessica Campbell called in. King commented on the organization and all that it has done for him, while Campbell focused on the issue of behavior modification facilities, which had not been mentioned in the show until then.

If you would like to listen to the online recording, go to
http://www.voice.voiceamerica.com/.

Congressional Candidate Supports a Lower Voting Age

By Scott Davidson

Ben Shuldiner is the twenty-nine year old founder and principal of a public service oriented school in Brooklyn, New York. He is also a Congressional candidate in New York’s 19th Congressional District, which encompasses much of Orange and Putnam Counties, as well as parts of northern Westchester. Ben is seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Republican incumbent Sue Kelly, who did not respond to NYRA’s letter about the voting age.

Two NYRA members recently attended an event in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, where all six candidates in the Democratic Primary answered questions posed by voters. The NYRA members did not have an opportunity to ask their questions during the forum, but spoke to three of the six candidates after the event. John Hall, who many people consider the front runner, expressed lukewarm support for lowering the voting age. Hall essentially said that if it could be done in a way that prevented more ill informed people from voting, he might support it. NYRA interprets this as a friendly “no.” Darren Rigger said he would have to learn more about the issue, but did not seem particularly enthusiastic about lowering the voting age.

Shuldiner, however, expressed a great deal of support for NYRA’s voting age position. Shuldiner replied to the voting age question with an enthusiastic familiarity, and stated that he had already heard of the National Youth Rights Association. The following week, NYRA members visited his campaign headquarters and were thoroughly impressed by his operation. As a non-profit organization, NYRA cannot legally endorse any candidate in this election, but Shuldiner’s values seem to be in line with NYRA’s most central and integral position.

New York Schools Become More Authoritarian

By Scott Davidson

Students’ rights are quickly becoming an issue of significant import in New York City. It is in the papers and on television, and NYRA members have overheard youth rights issues being discussed in the office of a very influential New York City Councilman. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has recently been enforcing a ban on cell phones in public schools, to the disgust of many students and parents. And in a move that is perhaps even more disgusting than the ban on cell phones, New York City is performing more and more random searches on students who have done nothing wrong.

Students have organized successful protests, which have in turn brought the issue a great deal of attention from the media and from elected officials. NYRA hopes that this frustration and outrage over a relatively narrow issue can be channeled into a general outrage over compulsory education in the United States, and the way young people are generally treated as second-class citizens. A protest will tentatively take place at New York City Hall on Thursday, May 11, at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Feature: Rich Jahn, Member Services Director

By Adam King

Rich Jahn has been involved in the youth rights movement since he was in high school. He said he discovered the concepts of youth rights initially by looking over ASFAR’s website and posting a bit in their discussion forums, but he never really got involved with that organization. Jahn found the National Youth Rights Association when he was 18 years old and a senior in high school. “Initially I was sort of shocked at how terrible youth were treated with regard to really basic civil liberties,” he said.

Jahn was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1982, but his parents moved to Dubuque, Iowa, only two years later. In high school, he mainly focused on his schoolwork and did not participate in any extracurricular activities, but he was interested in science, computers, and programming. He taught himself C in eighth grade, and early on in high school, he learned more about HTML and JavaScript. “I dabbled with some electronics kits from RadioShack and such,” Jahn said. “In my high school chemistry class, I built a zinc-copper battery in a beaker.”

From an early point in his life, Jahn knew that he was interested in pursuing engineering. “I was very interested in science and its application in technology,” he said. “I wanted to build and design machines and systems.” Jahn calls his interest in programming and science a parallel development. “I debated a bit about whether or not I wanted to go into engineering or computer science in college.”

Jahn chose to become involved with NYRA when he read the organization’s website thinking that it “looked far more professional than the ASFAR site.” According to him, the ASFAR site at that time was “pretty basic.” He proceeded to email Alex Koroknay-Palicz, and the two talked regularly via Instant Messaging. “In the summer of 2001, Alex appeared on CNN,” Jahn said. “A good dozen or so NYRA members met in the IRC chat room to discuss it while it was going on live. I think at that point I realized that NYRA was a real organization that would actually do something and get somewhere… and that Alex was a very qualified leader.”

Jahn developed NYRA’s first membership database accessible to staff members over the Internet. He worked extensively for two years, and it was made a reality in 2003. Since then, Jahn has been the sole person responsible for managing it and updating it with more secure and accessible functions. He said that one day soon he wants to be able to fix many bugs, harden security, and hopefully make it more flexible to integrate with other applications, such as vBulletin. He also has thought about commercializing it as a product and distributing it to other organizations.

Jahn enrolled in Iowa State University (ISU) in the fall of 2001, and graduated with his Bachelors of Science degree in Electrical Engineering on Saturday, May 6, 2006. He will begin work at Open Systems International near Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 1.

In Jahn’s career at NYRA, he has contributed a remarkable amount of work. He was appointed the organization’s secretary in 2001 and served until 2003, and he served on the Board of Directors from 2001 to 2005. Jahn decided to not run for office again because he primarily wanted to focus on his last year at ISU, and he “felt like [he] should probably step aside and let other people run.”

Jahn is undecided if he wants to run for office again in the future, but he said, “Immediately after I graduate college, I want to get back to work on the membership database.”

In August 2005, the Board of Directors resolved to thank Rich Jahn for his long service to NYRA. He said, “I was very touched, and greatly appreciated it, but I kind of just thought about all of the stuff I want to do for NYRA yet.”

Rich Jahn, thank you for all of the devoted work you have put into NYRA in the past five years. Without all of the work you have done, this organization would still be far behind today’s standard in technology.

Feature: Keep Fighting for Student Representation

By Adam King

I attended the Buncombe County Board of Education’s meeting on Thursday, May 4, 2006. I arrived at 6:00 p.m. for an interview with a camera operator from WLOS. He asked me questions concerning the night’s meeting, what I planned on saying, and I got the chance to clarify for once that I am not running for the position, but still would be willing to accept it if offered. As the Citizen-Times editorial wrote, if I am selected, it will provide the board an example of someone who is responsible and mature, providing them with a good first impression.

When I went into the board auditorium, Stan Alleyne, the Communications Director, commented on how well I have handled myself and he told me good luck. I signed in to speak during the public comment session, and I got to speak after about 45 minutes.

I gave the copies of my documents to the board members personally, and I went to the podium. I delivered my speech, and I provided additional information about how this is a local issue, how much support I have, and why it is necessary to have a student on the school board.

One board member, Bob Embler, asked me redundant questions about school advisory committees and if I even knew about them. I told him that, yes, I do know that schools have these committees. He asked me if I knew that there are two students on it, that the students can represent the student body there, and that the minutes are delivered to the school board. I answered all of these questions, and he asked me a question about how the student advisor would provide equal representation to all of the schools aside from his own. I told him that I specified at the last meeting one student would be selected from each high school and that panel of students would pick one to be the advisor, providing equal representation.

The representative from my school district, Richard Greene, spoke again at this meeting. He told me that he would support my proposal if I can find a way to guarantee that the student advisor would not just be sitting on the board without saying anything.

After I spoke, a local government watchdog, Jerry Rice, spoke in favor of my idea. Jerry has been recording government meetings in Buncombe County for 18 years. Jerry told the board that students are essential to the board – they are the ones that the board is supposed to be representing. He said that he supports my idea completely, and said that I have a lot of courage to stick up for something I believe in. In addition, he said that he didn’t feel that the school advisory committees provide sufficient representation, and he felt that a student advisor would not have any political motivation and would keep the board on task on what it is supposed to do.

After the meeting was adjourned, I thanked the man for speaking, and I was able to speak with him for about ten minutes. Dusty Pless, another board member, came up to me and told me that he would support the idea if I can find a way to guarantee the student would actually contribute during the meetings.

So, my next steps are going to be to contact more politicians and try to get their support. I did after all, get the encouragement from four politicians. I am also going to send petitions to the other five high schools in the county to supplement the 60 signatures (including all four administrators) that I have from my school. I will contact the state board and ask them what their thoughts on the current student advisors to their board are, and I will try contacting the student advisors themselves and see what they have to say.

If I get more support from politicians, I will likely be holding a press conference to show the media the signing publicly, and to answer any questions that they may have.

I will try to get a copy of the tape from the meeting, and give it to radio stations and other news outlets to play or to listen to. As soon as I get more support and information, I will speak at the next board meeting that I am prepared for, likely in June or July.

Staff Requests

By Adam King

NYRA is seeking to hire regional captains for chapter formation in the Midwest and Central regions. If you are interested, fill out an application here: http://www.youthrights.org/chapterformation.php or contact Adam King.

Upcoming Events

Youth Rights Chat, May 16, 2006, at 8 p.m. ET, in NYRA’s AIM chatroom

Board Meeting, May 21, 2006, at 7:30 p.m. ET, in NYRA’s AIM chatroom

Chapter Informational Update Meeting, TBA

News From the Web

Editorial: More student input on school issues worth a try
(http://www.youthrights.org/forums/showpost.php?p=165634&postcount=26)

Student to school board: You could use my perspective
(http://www.youthrights.org/forums/showthread.php?t=7311)

14-year-old protest organizer commits suicide after threats from school faculty
(http://www.youthrights.org/forums/showthread.php?t=7290)

Feature on NYRA Member Kate Touhey
(http://www.timesleader.com/mld/timesleader/living/14515565.htm)

Conclusion

By Adam King

Until February, I had only done a lot of work behind the scenes, such as chapter formation and editing this newsletter. When I started working on my project to add a student representative to the local school board, something felt different. I don’t really know how to describe it, but it felt wonderful to have the chance to actually do something ‘out on the streets.’ If you are looking for a revamp opportunity, I encourage you to do something similar in your own area. Whether you’re currently working behind the scenes or not, find a youth rights project that is important to you and work on it. We need people of both kinds to make this organization a continued success.

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