Monday was one of the most successful days thus far on the walk. We split up in the morning to speak at a middle school and a high school. While Nico, Alex, Raymi, and Jon went to the middle school to speak with 5th-8th graders and their parents, Jose and I went to MET High School. The first thing that struck me was how small the high school was! My high school in Orlando had almost 5,000 students. My graduating class in 2006 was about 1,500 people and this high school had a grand total of 300 students.
When we arrived at the school we were able to meet with Principal Allen Young who directed us towards the assembly building. Every morning there is a “Pick Me Up” before classes start. So Monday morning Jose and I shared our stories and spoke about the walk. Afterwards we walked into several classes as they were taking place to connect with the students more. It filled my heart with inspiration talking to so many students who are the future.
When the clock struck 10:45AM we said our goodbyes and made our way to the State Capitol where we gathered in Assemblymember Ricardo Lara’s office. As Luis, his legislative aide, led us to the Assembly Floor, my heart was pounding with joy, excitement, and nervousness. As we watched the legislative process take place before our eyes, I felt empowered. Suddenly, we were called before the entire Assembly where Assemblymember Lara introduced us and asked the Floor to welcome us. The crowd broke into applause as the Democratic members made their way to us and shook our hands. The majority of Republican members decided to stay in their seats.
After we were honored on the Assembly Floor, we began our 1-on-1 visits with legislators starting with Ricardo Lara. We had in-depth conversations with Mr. Lara, Tom Ammiano, Gil Cedillo (father of the CA DREAM Act), and several other legislators. I was very adamant about speaking to a Republican legislator, so Joaquin and Jon Rodney were able to schedule a meeting with Senator Canella at 3 p.m. When we spoke to Senator Canella, I was expecting criticism and resistance. I was pleasantly surprised to hear his “appreciation for our courage.” He even tweeted later saying, “Although I do not agree with their message, I commend these students courage and bravery.”
Our last visit was supposed to be with the Speaker of the Assembly, John Perez, but he was unavailable. We did have lunch with Max, the Special Assistant to Mr. Perez the next day on Tuesday at a Mexican restaurant near the Capitol. After all the legislative visits we went to a dinner hosted by one of the parents present at the middle school and after that to a get together hosted by Fatima and Suzanna, who are teachers and community members.
Monday was a beautiful day for CAD and the DREAMer community. I have to give a special shout out to Rob for allowing us a space in his home for showers, the dinner, and introducing me to “Parks and Recreation.” To Max, Joaquin, Nessa, and Jon Rodney for all your beautiful dedication to this work and for organizing our legislative day on Monday. To Gil Cedillo for fathering the CA DREAM Act, Ricardo Lara for the inspiring introduction on the Assembly Floor, and all the legislators that believe in us and are helping to push for change. Finally, a special shout-out to members of the community that we met while we were in Sacramento like Fatima and Suzanna for opening up your house to us and feeding us.