Students Participate In Annual Advocacy Trip To Sacramento

Students travel to Sacramento to speak to legislators and advocate for important educational topics


Photo courtesy of Brenda Ascencio

Students from the Irvine Unified School District gather together in front of the Capitol Building in Sacramento to discuss legislative impact on education.

Local Control Accountability Plan, funding formulas and lobbying – not many students encounter these terms throughout their high school experience. However, a group of students had to wrestle with these terms and programs to represent our campus. This year’s student representatives of the Sacramento advocacy trip – including juniors Megan Kosai, Morgan Kopecky, Elizabeth Sun, Tomas Castro, Noa Philips and senior Brenda Ascencio – underwent intensive training on Irvine Unified School District’s (IUSD) programs to speak with legislators at the California State Capitol on March 7.

The Sacramento advocacy trip is a program undertaken by representatives from every IUSD high school, along with chaperones and district staff members. Students are interviewed after they submit an application. Advisor and vice principal Scott Sodorff and other staff members then select the representatives.
“We don’t look for top students, or the ones that have a 4.0 GPA,” Sodorff said. “That’s not the case. You have to be confident and passionate. I do think that the students who go on this trip and are part of the Sacramento experience come back with the educational experience much greater than they can get from the classroom. It’s a valuable experience.”

For about four to five weeks, student representatives met once a week on Tuesday nights with presenters from different departments. Students listened to concerns shared by the heads of each department, including the head of the vocal and performing arts department and the head of the IUSD’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

At the state capitol, representatives met with legislators in hearing rooms, and broke off into small groups to talk about certain topics on their education system.
“We met with different lobbyists who advocated for different things,” Kosai said. “It was really inspiring to see that our voice in the capitol was being heard. When students went up and advocated for certain things, some people wrote down our ideas and gave us their emails, saying that they’ll contact us with further information.”

As a returning member of the advocacy trip, Ascencio worked as a mediator between the student representatives and school district presenters, organizing Woodbridge informational meeting panels and advising junior members.

“I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in political science or public policy, or just anything related to government,” Ascencio said. “Since I will be majoring in political science in college, this was something that sparked my interest and pushed me towards that major, which also influenced my career decision.”

The advocacy trip provided a platform for students to address their thoughts on their current education system, such as the extremely low budget per student at the district or on the imbalance between the number of STEM or humanities classes offered on campus.
“It was an eye-opening experience. I realized that was a lot of behind-the-scene work that it takes for one more program for our school or one more bill passed. It definitely empowers me to advocate for more things, and hopefully, I get to go on it next year as well,” Kosai said.