For the first time in ASA’s history, our Youth Empowerment Summit (Y.E.S.) was held on April 10 - 12 virtually. University students from Arizona State University (ASU), University of Arizona (UofA), Northern Arizona University(NAU), high school students, Community College students, and community members attended the summit where they got the opportunity to learn and work on student issues impacting the state of Arizona.

The Youth Empowerment Summit began on Saturday, April 10, and ended on Monday, April 12. The first day started with an alumni panel where attendees got to hear from Joel Edman, current Executive Director of Arizona Advocacy Network, Jason Kordosky who is a Volunteer Coordinator for Food Bank & Soup Kitchen in Flagstaff, and our very own Armando Montera who is the youngest governing board member elected at Tempe High School. There was also a presentation on why Arizona prioritizes prisons over students and what grassroots organizations like Poder in Action are doing to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. The day ended with a discussion led by Karlyn Bradley, on what it means to hold elected officials accountable. 

On Sunday, April 11, it was all about climate justice and voting. Sara Kubisty, ASA’s Climate Justice Director discussed her climate justice work in Flagstaff and led a conversation with Anna Tovar, a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission, and Brian Mecinas, from Chispa and AZ Youth Climate Coalition. Next, Emma Burns, ASA’s Voter Suppression director discussed ASA’s involvement in increasing student vote turnout and an upcoming day of action to pass HR1. In addition to this, Patrick Morales, ASA’s Legislative Director led a training session on lobbying to prepare for Monday. 

On Monday, April 12, students who had signed up for lobbying day got the chance to have 15-30 minute virtual meetings with state legislators over three bills. The bills included SB1485, which would purge 100,000+ Arizonans from the vote by mail list, HB 2309, which could charge protestors, usually young people with a class 6 felony for participating in a protest that has turned violent and SB1106, which would convict parents with a class 5 felony to forward students their ballots to the college they are attending.

Those who attended this year’s summit took something with them each day. 

Taryn Bickle, a freshman at NAU studying Political Science and International Affairs said, 

“The entire experience was very informative, interesting, and engaging. I learned a lot about issues such as police brutality and climate change from guests who knew a lot about these topics and were very passionate about them.”

Isabella Burrola, a high school senior at Desert Vista said, 

“The summit was very intriguing even though it was online. I loved hearing about the steps that one of the people at NAU took to form a rally and march pushing to make the campus more environmentally friendly. There were multiple ideas of how to make voting more accessible to college students, which stood out to me as an important subject.”

Jared Salgado, a freshman studying Political Science with a minor in Business felt the same way as Burrola. 

“I was fortunate enough to have learned new information from the prison topic because it enlightened how we should push for a different approach on the state budget to build a better Arizona.”

ASU Freshman Daanish Daudi studying Computer Science said, 

“The Y.E.S. conference is one of the few opportunities that allow students to get involved with their political process at an extremely early point in their career. At the end of the day, I was happy to learn that the skills and knowledge I received were quickly applicable to real-world situations and can end up having a tangible impact on policy and legislation. Events like these serve to bolster student involvement, which is something I believe we can truly never get enough of.”

-Anna Deogratias, ASA Communications Director