Every year JAG hosts Legislative Day at the Arizona State Capitol for a day of awareness that allows our students the opportunity to meet with legislators and share with them about the value of programs like JAG.
This event was also designed to open dialogue between JAG students and lawmakers so students can learn how they can become more involved in issues impacting Arizona. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Legislative Day was held virtually the past two years, so this year’s event was a special one for students.
After registering, students made their way to the Rose Garden to kick off the day with a morning welcome from University of Phoenix LEADS, JAG President Graciela Garcia Candia, District 19 Representative Diego Espinoza, and keynote speakers from Tomorrow We Vote.
The day typically includes a lunch at the Rose Garden for legislators and students to meet each other before touring the Capitol and each legislator's office. A special addition to the day’s schedule this year included a mock assembly session held on the House Floor with Representative Diego Espinoza and State Senator Lupe Contreras.
Before students began their mock assembly session, they were given the opportunity to choose their seat in the House Chamber and sit in the seat of a legislator. Students then had the opportunity to experience the process of lawmaking.
With only five minutes to deliberate with their side of the aisle on an argument in support or against the proposed bill, they learned to stay adaptable under pressure and utilize their skills in communication, critical thinking, and teamwork to accomplish the task set before them.
“I feel like the process was a little more challenging than I expected it to be,” said Elena Gomez, President of JAG at La Joya Community High School, as she discussed her experience during the mock session. “And it’s a lot easier at the same time – it’s just a lot of people talking and debating about what they want, and they are just people. Legislators are just people like us.”
Following the mock session, JAG students and 30 legislators came together for a luncheon in the Rose Garden and for most of the students, this was their first time meeting with their district representatives.
The lunch setting provided the opportunity for students to meet legislators on a personal level and have their voices heard when typically they might not be able to as younger community members. “.... I guess you could say we don’t really have a voice. Having been able to speak to [my legislator] directly is super cool,” said Aracely, Vice President of Community Service for La Joya JAG.
“I learned at the lunch, Axxel, one of the students at my table, actually sat in my chair on the House Floor,” said District 27 Representative Marcelino Quiñonez. “It was important for me to learn why students took part in the JAG program and to offer them various words of advice towards accomplishing their educational goals. I learned students became JAG members because they felt supported, heard, and encouraged, or because their friends were part of JAG. Regardless of how a student arrives at JAG, as a legislator, I am happy they are all part of JAG.”
Not only was the luncheon motivational for students, it also provided legislators a glimpse of the JAG Advantage and an opportunity to hear the aspirations of students in their district.
“JAG students are shown the pathway to achieve their goals to be successful in the future, not only in our communities but to compete in a global economy,” District 29 Representative Richard Andrade said. “….The students who shared with me their plans for the future and what they want to pursue in their future careers was enlightening… We need to make sure as a Legislature that these jobs will be available especially in the West Valley.”
By the end of the event, every student who attended met with a legislator, toured the Capitol, and even 10 of those students registered to vote. It was a day that students will take with them as they graduate this year and/or continue on their JAG legacy.
“It was really cool to see and feel that we were really important, at least for one day,” Gomez said. “And to see there were people willing to listen to us and that we could even be those people who are willing to make change and listen to other people…. [Legislative Day] makes me want to get into political leadership and politics.”
JAG’s employer engagement events kick off at the end of this month with the Interviewing Skills Competition on March 30th and Career Development Conference on April 26th. Stay in the loop through our newsletter and social media!
Want to learn more about JAG’s impact on students? Check out Faces of JAG HERE
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