Preschool and Real Time Advocacy – Get Involved!

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 12.40.38 PMMike Kirby
Business Development Manager, GENCOMM
United Way of Salt Lake Young Leader

Just a few weeks ago, HB96 (the Utah School Readiness Initiative) was signed into law by Governor Herbert, helping to give thousands of at-risk kids a better chance in school and life.

When I first heard about this bill at the United Way of Salt Lake Young Leaders Golf Tournament in August, it seemed to me like such a “no-brainer.” I had a hard time believing that this bill had failed to pass the previous year, and that there was even opposition to it.

Time passed and just like everyone, I got busy with life. I didn’t really think about the bill or what I had heard at the golf tournament again until I started getting e-mails about the upcoming session. I attended the United Way Legislative Breakfast and it was there that I heard more about the bill and how it would impact the lives of these children.

Since the golf tournament, I had become involved with the volunteer efforts at Guadalupe School downtown. I cannot say for sure the specific situations of any of these children, but most of them come from homes where the parents are either busy working multiple jobs, non-existent, or for some reason cannot be as involved with their children. These students are good, hard-working kids that want the same things as any other child. Life has already dealt them a tough hand, but I am confident that if we can instill the value of education into these children, we can make a long-term difference. Education is what will keep these kids out of gangs, away from drugs, and on a path where they are contributing members of our community. That is why I continue to volunteer!

Because of these experiences, hearing about the impacts of this bill really hit home for me. I decided I would dedicate any time I could to helping this bill get passed. I had never been involved in politics or any kind of advocacy before, so I had no idea what to expect.

The first day I spent at the Capitol was completely invigorating. The energy and excitement was awe-inspiring. To be honest, it was over-whelming at first. I was very nervous to “call-out” my representative or senator. Who was I to be interrupting such an important person? As I continued my efforts over the next several weeks, I realized that it’s really the other way around.

Our legislators at the Capitol are representing us; if we don’t seek them out, how will they know the best way to represent us? The more I got into the process the more I realized the impact of what goes on up at the Capitol each year. Decisions are being made that affect us all, but many of us (myself included) typically have no idea what is taking place; in turn, our representatives are making decisions with input from very few of us.

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It was through this process that I learned the importance of being active and involved in local politics. There are a variety of ways to be involved whether it’s being a delegate, advocating on the hill, helping on campaigns, or simply engaging with your own representatives.

I learned two valuable lessons this year: the importance of being proactive to make sure my voice is heard and our local representatives are much more accessible than most of us realize. We all like to sit around the water-cooler and complain about “the government;” I challenge you to take it to the next level and stop complaining — get involved!

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