As my time as NYRA’s legal intern comes to a close, I cannot help but look back upon the lessons that I have learned by my experience with NYRA. NYRA has challenged my beliefs and has opened me up to new views and perspectives on several issues. The purpose of this blog entry is to share with other NYRA members what NYRA has taught me personally.
What had attracted me to NYRA in the first place, was its strong stand on lowering the voting age. While working for the organization throughout the summer, I saw the real need to lower the voting age. Youth today are treated unfairly in the sense that there are many laws that are imposed upon them that they do not necessary agree with. Moreover,it is very hard for them change these law because they cannot vote. As a result, governmental official ignore youth issues because youth are not considered their constituents. If youth were given the opportunity to vote there would be a change of attitude toward the youth of our nation. For instance, the youth would be treated more fairly because they would be given a chance to represent and voice out their concerns upon issues that involve them. Also, giving youth the power to vote forces governmental official to pay attention to youth issues because the youth will be considered their constituents.
Another experience with NYRA where I have been able to learn a lot from is our attempts to fight the Washington DC curfew measure. In Washington DC, the city council of the District of Columbia was trying to pass an emergency curfew law that would raise the age to 17 years and institute the time to 10 pm. The reason why the city council felt this was a necessary measure to pass, was to keep the youth of the city safe because not to long ago a 17 year old girl was shot at a club. The city council’s reason for wanting to establish a curfew law is admirable, but its strategy is an unaffected method. The curfew law does not keep youth safe from violence because violence can occur at anyplace or at anytime, even in their own homes. Also, the curfew law penetrates the domain of parenting, which the government has no business meddling with unless a child is being harmed physical or emotional. Moreover, the best course of action in protecting youth is to increase security on the streets by having more police patrolling.
Furthermore, NYRA played an active role in defeating the curfew emergency measure. NYRA got a hold of information about the city council trying to pass a curfew emergency measure and quickly mobilize to fight against the proposal. Some effective methods used by NYRA was to contact all their allied organization to inform them about the curfew proposal and to gain their support. In addition, NYRA attended work group meetings that were planning the curfew legislation, which it was able to voice out against the curfew proposal. Also, NYRA was successful in bringing people to council meetings that were discussing the curfew measure to protest against the proposal. Additionally, NYRA was able to testify in front of the city council to makes its arguments against the curfew measure.
Moreover, NYRA’s battle against the curfew measure has taught me a major lesson on persistence. To successful campaign for a changes in laws persistence is the key ingredient. Changing a legislation does not happen suddenly, it takes a long time to make an effective change. Hence, you cannot give up so easily because then you will not be successful in making the necessary changes that you want. Instead, you must be persistent and fight for the changes in the legislation.
Furthermore, attending NYRA’s annual meeting was very beneficial for me hearing different viewpoints on different issues. There were various workshops offered to people at the annual meeting that discussed an assortment of topics about major youth issues. The workshop that was the most empowering to me was conducted by an organization called Campaign for Youth Justice. Their topic of discussion was about the lack of rehabilitating methods within the the juvenile criminal system. What made the workshop so impacting was when a man spoke about his treatment and experience within the juvenile system. Hearing his experience, opened my eyes to the issues that surround the juvenile criminal system. There needs to be programs established that can rehabilitate youth that are in the criminal system so when they do leave jail they are not doomed to make their past mistakes or even worse mistakes in their lives.
Additionally, by attending the NYRA’s annual meeting I was able to witness the bond shared among the NYRA members. NYRA is not just an organization with members, instead it is an organization based on friendship. With the little time I have spent with the NYRA members, I could see that NYRA’s success is based on the friendship that were formed by people’s passion to battle youth rights.
In closure, interning at NYRA has given me valuable skills and life lessons that I am able to incorporate in my personal and professional life. I have learned that it is important to fight for things that you believe in. Also, you must be persistent in your fight to be successful in making a change or a difference. Additionally, it is important to not to stick to your views on issues. You must be open minded and hear other people’s views even if you do not agree because it only makes you into a well rounded person in the end. Furthermore, NYRA’s continue strength and success comes from the people that are involved with the organization. For its strength to continue to grow, it needs its members to continue the work and fight hard.