Sacramento Student Advocacy Trip


Annie Brown

IUSD students in Sacramento meeting with state legislators, representatives from the California Department of Education, staff and policy advisors for the State Board of Education and a variety of experts in state education policy.

Mia Barajas-Kua, Staff Writer

On March 22, upperclassmen from UHS as well as other IUSD schools flew to Sacramento to meet with experts in state education policy for the annual Sacramento Student Advocacy Trip. This included state legislators, representatives, staff and policy advisors from the board of education. The purpose was to discuss and learn more about issues specific to California and problems unique to IUSD schools. 

To take part, students had to fill out an application. The UHS student advocates included seniors Ryan Alavi, Sumunna Gnanashanmugam, Caitlyn Liao, Jolie Roche and Kashish Sachdeva and juniors Alec Apelian, Andy Kessler and Kerry Zhang.

Before the trip, the selected students met each week to conduct panel discussions that covered the topics that are discussed at the meetings. These students also studied education policy and legislation and prepared specific questions to ask the members of the board of education. 

Each student had their reason for participating. Some took part to gain experience in the major they plan on pursuing. 

“As someone interested in pursuing policy-related work in college, this experience was amazing because it allowed me to explore the different pathways I could take to be involved in crafting and shaping policy,” Liao said. “I also was able to advocate for issues I was passionate about to people who had a real ability to make a difference about it and learn more about the process of passing a bill in relation to feasibility.” 

Others attended because the event lined up with their values and what they are passionate about. 

I was honored with the acceptance to this program, and I joined because I want to reduce the number of students whose education is impacted negatively because of a system they don’t have a voice in,” Sachdeva said. “Mainly, I wanted to push for student engagement so students can have a voice in their education, increased mental health support, more incorporation of diversity and a successful implementation of ethnic studies across California.”

Each student brought up a different issue during the meeting. One issue was climate change education. 

“We attended an assembly education hearing, where we heard representatives present many of their proposed bills, among them . . . AB 285, which would integrate climate change education into the K-12 curriculum, and I was so happy to hear it being addressed by members of the assembly,” Liao said. “I personally discussed funding and the LCFF formula, since securing funding is such an integral part of implementing change.” 

Another topic brought up was ethnic studies.

“I addressed how effectively the implementation of ethnic studies will be able to measure the success of students considering the subjectivity of the class, pushing for efforts to make the report of mental health data mandated at a state level and ways to increase student engagement at both a local and state level,” Sachdeva said. “It was very fun learning about future career pathways and sitting in the assembly education hearing to see the action of how legislation is made.”

Many of the students in attendance expressed their enjoyment of the outcome of the trip. 

“It was really fun to hear from other IUSD students and learn about their experiences and what they’re passionate about,” Roche said. “I also enjoyed exploring Sacramento and seeing the State Capitol!” 

Not only was it memorable for the students, but it left them with a better understanding of the education system.

“It was an educational experience . . . hearing their stories and learning about actions they’re taking to improve the education system,” Sachdeva said. “I felt extremely relaxed on the trip despite the significant amount of events we had to cover in one day because the organizers ensured we stayed on track with our itinerary.” 

Overall, the trip went very well, and many of the advocates are optimistic that changes will occur.

“I’m . . . hoping that legislators will take what we said and take it a step further by using their platform to make direct changes in education,” Sachdeva said.