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Junior Commissioner Project — Review of Accomplishments

Each year we accept a group of dynamic, diverse, and bright high school students into our mentorship program.  Their passion always amazes us, as does their determination to learn as much as they can in the short time they serve on the Junior Commission. The majority of first-time Commissioners return for subsequent years, and as a result, many of the community service-related projects begun during one term, are continued and further built upon by a new class of Juniors.

Here are brief snapshots of what these future leaders have accomplished during the course of their term on the Junior Commission.

2018 – 2019 Current Term Projects

Homelessness Ad hoc

In an effort to connect unhoused residents of Sonoma County with much needed supplies, this committee formed the Heart to Hand project, creating multiple donation points at libraries and community organizations for no perishable food and hygiene items. They designed colorful reusable bags for the program and distributed them to homeless service providers.

Human Trafficking Ad hoc

Learning of the importance of personal hygiene items and school supplies to help reclaim dignity for young people exiting human trafficking situations, this committee worked to create multiple donation points to collect these items and give them to Verity for distribution. This committee also participated in the 2018 Walk For Freedom in San Francisco.

Immigrant’s Rights Ad hoc

The Immigrant’s Rights committee completed a 12'x32' mural entitled DREAMER, with the goal of bringing awareness of the beauty of immigration.  The mural was created in partnership with Artstart and assisted by volunteers from the community.  DREAMER is seeking a permanent home.  The Butterfly Project is an ongoing, interactive art installation of hand painted monarch butterflies around Sonoma County, linking viewers through QR code to real life stories from the immigrant community. The committee also produced a short film about the DREAMER mural process and continued Myths vs. Truths (PDF: 2.2 MB) presentations about the immigrant community for schools, serving over 800 students.

Poverty and Food Insecurity

With the goal of helping to eliminate the widespread problem of food insecurity faced by so many Sonoma County residents, this committee partnered with Redwood Empire Food Bank to place multiple donation barrels around Sonoma County to provide over 1,000 pounds of food to those in need. The committee also held food drives and fundraising events for Thanksgiving turkeys and toy drives for the holidays at school.

Student Activism

With a goal of engaging more students in school climate, curriculum equity and community issues, this committee worked with their high school student peers to push for adequate implementation of the FAIR Act, bring attention to discrimination and harassment based on race, sexual orientation and gender in schools, climate change and environmental justice.  The committee partnered with North Bay Organizing Project, Indivisible Petaluma, the Petaluma City Schools Board, Women's March, Sonoma County Women in Conversation and North Bay LGBTQI Families and created a website which will continue to be developed during the 2019-2020 year. Committee lead Lucia Garay also spoke alongside Tracee Ellis Ross and worked with the Sunrise Movement in challenging Senator Dianne Feinstein to back the Green New Deal.

2017 – 2018

Achievement Gap Ad hoc

Drawing from personal experience and observation of decreased representation for Latino students in Advanced placement classes, this committee of one conducted a survey and created a report addressing the education gap between Latino students and their Caucasian peers in Sonoma Valley.  The report was presented at the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights’ Education Forum in Sonoma Valley on March 28th and shared with Sonoma Valley educators, administrators, and school board trustees.

Homelessness Ad hoc

In an effort to spread awareness around the issues of homelessness in our community, and to bring attention to the need for more housing, this committee held a public Forum on Homelessness, featuring speakers from partner organizations that provide services to the homeless population, and partnering members of the public with volunteer opportunities. They also created a short film featuring interviews with members of the homeless community. 

Human Trafficking Ad hoc

This committee promoted Strong Survival, the 2016-2017 junior commission documentary intended to spread awareness about human trafficking through the story of local survivor and activist Maya Babow. The film was shared with all middle and high school administrators, screened at various events and high school presentations were organized with Ms. Babow.  The committee also developed a one page fact sheet with information and statistics about human trafficking that exists in our own community, in partnership with sexual assault victims’ advocacy organization Verity.  The one sheet was distributed to all middle and high school administrators with a request to share the information with parents to spread awareness and help protect students from traffickers. 

Immigrant’s Rights Ad hoc

The Immigrant’s Rights committee created a presentation on Myths vs. Truths about the immigrant community for schools, serving over 600 students.  In an effort to spread awareness to their peers and provide support for DACA students in their own communities, they also created a poster campaign urging students to engage their members of Congress to enact a Clean Dream Act.  They distributed Know Your Rights cards and created the short documentary film DACA: The Basics

March For Our Lives Ad hoc

This emergency committee, responding to the Parkland shooting, organized a youth directed rally in downtown Santa Rosa which drew estimates of 2,000-5,000 people.  The event featured youth speakers, community organizers and elected officials chosen entirely by the junior commission, in partnership with Petaluma Moms Demand Action, Indivisible Sonoma County, and the Latin Student Congress.

Mental Health and Illness Ad hoc

Realizing that mental health intersects with many other issues and noting the decrease in services available at many high schools, this committee created an anonymous, online survey to study the perceptions of high school students and the culture surrounding mental illness.  Participants answered a set of questions in English and Spanish about their feelings about mental health concerns and their perceptions of available support. The committee compiled the data into a report and recommendations that they shared with Sonoma county high schools.

Racial Equality in Sonoma County Ad hoc

With a goal of promoting awareness of the racial issues that exist in our community, this committee created a comprehensive report explaining the data results of the 2016-2017 anonymous, online, peer-to-peer survey open to all Sonoma County high school students to evaluate racial climate in their schools.  The report along with recommendations to improve school climate around race, was distributed to Sonoma county high school administrators and district superintendents.  The committee participated in several workshops as part of the Day of Dialogue event at Maria Carrillo High School.  The report was used to hold a community forum on racism in schools in Petaluma in early 2019.

This committee also manages the Facebook page Real Humans of Sonoma County, a source of compelling stories from our diverse community.   https://www.facebook.com/realhumansofsonomacounty/

2016 – 2017

Homelessness Ad hoc

In an effort to spread awareness around the issue of homelessness in our community, and to bring attention to the need for more housing, this committee held a public Youth Forum on Homelessness on March 29, 2017 at Chops Teen Center, featuring speakers from partner organizations that provide services to the homeless population and bring information of these services to those who need it most.

Human Trafficking Ad hoc

Once again, this committee is working to bring facts, stories, and statistics about the human trafficking that exists in our own community into global studies and human interaction classes in area high schools. In an attempt to address the misconceptions of victims and perpetrators, the group will create a documentary-style video – Strong Survival – to generate conversations about what human trafficking looks like, and to motivate other students to take action in ending this modern-day form of slavery.

LGBTQ+ Ad hoc

This committee worked to establish Safe Spaces for LGBTQ+ students in Sonoma County middle schools, by doing outreach to school administrators and educators and providing free Safe Space Program Kits. A letter was sent in February, and the ad hoc presented to the staff at the Santa Rosa Middle School.

Poverty & Food Insecurity Ad hoc

In 2016, the Sonoma Hunger Index stated that about 70,000 families, or 36% of all households, missed some 34 million meals even with the well-functioning assistance programs in place. To help address this issue, this committee established a series of 24-hour Fights To End Food Insecurity In Sonoma County.  Participants were asked to abstain from eating for 24 hours to truly understand how it feels to struggle with food insecurity. The ad hoc raised over $3,000 for the Redwood Empire Food Bank, an amount that provides for over 6,000 meals.

Racial Equality in Sonoma County Ad hoc

With a goal of promoting awareness of the racial issues that exist in our community, this committee conducted an anonymous, online peer-to-peer survey that was open to all Sonoma County high school students to evaluate racial climate in their schools. A letter was sent to high school administrators in Sonoma County requesting their help in promoting the survey. The survey was available in English and Spanish. The committee will look to next year's cohort to further analyze the data and create subsequent recommendations to improve school climate towards racial equality (Editor's note: the 2017-18 committee sent out the report on February 7, 2018.)

This committee also administrates the Facebook page Real Humans of Sonoma County, telling stories from our diverse community.   https://www.facebook.com/realhumansofsonomacounty/

2015 – 2016

Homelessness Ad hoc

In an effort to dispel stereotypes surrounding the homeless members of our community, and to bring attention to the need for more housing, this committee created a Public Service Announcement (PSA) video – that included interviews with those whom are homeless – to spread awareness and provide education. Additionally, the group partnered with organizations that provide services to the homeless population and bring information of these services to those who need it most.

Human Rights Education Ad hoc

This committee created an interactive, educational presentation on human rights topics to bring into elementary and middle schools in an effort to foster a greater understanding of human rights among our community's youth.

Human Trafficking Ad hoc

This committee assembled facts, stories, and statistics about the human trafficking that exists in our own community and brought a presentation into global studies and human interaction classes in area high schools. In an attempt to address the misconceptions of victims and perpetrators, the group created a documentary-style video to generate conversations about what human trafficking looks like, and to motivate other students to take action in ending this modern-day form of slavery.

Poverty & Food Insecurity Ad hoc 

Realizing that 57.8% of households with children under 18 suffer from food insecurity, this committee established a 24-hour Fight To End Food Insecurity In Sonoma County from 1.00PM on March 11 to 1.00PM on March 12. Participants were asked to abstain from eating for 24 hours to truly understand how it feels to struggle with food insecurity. The committee raised enough funds to provide for 2,000 meals.

Racial Equality in Sonoma County Ad hoc

With a goal of promoting awareness of the racial problems that exist in our community, this committee also created a PSA video to bring attention to internalized and interpersonal racism. The group presented the video and the findings of their research and interviews at Santa Rosa High School's Tolerance Day.

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