Robson Swift is one of our DLCAPs fellows, a group of youth representatives on the DLCAPS Committee that brainstorms and collaborate on how to impact how LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) funds will be spent in WCCUSD.
DLCAPs fellows come together from different communities, knowing that youth voice is often forgotten or ignored in district decisions regarding spending, and hope to spark change through breaking down barriers of ageism and addressing flaws in district money distribution. DLCAPs fellows advocate for young people in schools, empowering them to speak out and take agency over their education.
Learn more about our DLCAPs fellows' work here and learn more about Robson below!
What experience in your life inspired you to become a youth leader?
It wasn't just one experience. When I learned of systematic oppression I knew I wanted to fight it. But what made me focus on youth voice is because in almost every experience I had of trying to raise my voice as a student I would get little support. I also had little opportunities so I knew that I would have to create those opportunities myself. Also it feels really good. I love fighting for myself and others. Creating good in the world makes me feel good. It's one of those things I could get used to.
How did you first hear about RYSE and why did you choose to get involved?
I heard about RYSE from the amazing Valerie. After one of the first DLCAP meetings she came up to me and said that she liked what I said and gave me her card. We kept in contact and she told me a lot about RYSE and it seemed like my place. A place where youth voice and advocacy is encouraged and fostered was a place of my dreams. I had to get involved.
If you had to describe RYSE in three words, what would they be and why?
Fun, loud and empowering. Empowering and fun are for obvious reasons. I have fun every time I go to RYSE. Literally everyone is nice and funny. Empowering because it is a place that is dedicated to uplifting youth. It makes sure youth no matter who they are raise their voices and fight for what they think is important. Loud because it encourages people to be loud and protect the things they care about. But it is also literally loud. There is always someone or some people yelling or laughing. And music is always blasting. I had to get used to it, but now its really fun and comforting in a weird way.
What empowers you to fight for social justice?
Self-confidence and empathy, I have enough confidence in myself to go out there and speak out for what I believe. I am also strong enough to deal with the blowback. I also (thanks to book) have empathy. I come from a privileged position in society because I am a white male. And having read a bunch of books and made friends to people of many, many, many different races, ethnicities and national origins. I have gained the ability of empathy or at the very least sympathy for others. This ability gives me the ability to see that I don't fear police violence when I cross the street or pass a couple of officers, but other do. It also allows me to see that, that is wrong and needs to change. It allows me to see the debris of slavery in our society. It allows me to see that there our fundamental problems in our society and it is up to me and my generation to fight them and to turn them around.
What does education justice mean to you?
It means equality and equity in the education system. It means treating all students equally. It means given more help to those who need it. It also means that students are always considered in every decision by schools and the district makes since students make those entities money and every decision they make affects students. It means that students take agency and control over how they are educated and treated in schools since they determine our futures and what we do in life.
What impact do you hope to have through your participation in the school districts Local Control Accountability Parent and Student (LCAPS) Committee?
I hope to make sure students are heard and considered in every single recommendation. I also hope to make sure that funds are allocated to programs that actually improves students' lives. I hope that my work encourages and empowers other students to take control over their education and help inform every decision on how money is spent on their education, their schools, their lives.
How has participating in the LCAP fellowship benefited you?
It's helped me to not only talk a good game or complain about the system, it taught me how to fix the system. It taught me how to work in politics and how to think strategically about how to use the power one has to affect change. It gave me some vital tools that I need if I want to create any sort of positive change.
What recommendations would you give to people that want to be adult allies about fostering youth voice?
I say that we know what we are doing. Often adults think youth aren't educated or mature enough to make any sort of political action or to affect change. We are inexperienced, but capable. We just need some guidance, a light push in the right direction since it will most definitely be the first time we ever did something like this. Also just encourage us. I can't count the number of times I felt discouraged by my school's admin. It wasn't because they discouraged me. They just met my aspirations or complaints with a shrug. It would have been better if they gave me constructive criticisms or outright told me that my idea wouldn't work and then described how I could change or improve it, but they just showed no emotion. The worst thing you can do is give no emotion or reaction. Also don't be scared. I feel some adults become scared of me or my friends whenever we want to seriously want to change things. Don't be scared, be happy. When you are old or dead we'll be doing this exact same thing, might as well get some practice or at least a head start.
Tell us something that happened in the RYSE community that resonated with you this month.
The pure colorfulness and drive. Everyone has a bright, infectious personality and has always made me feel better or more energized with every interaction. There is also and infectious drive in everyone. Everyone wants change. Everyone wants to improve our community and the world around us and it feels like people at RYSE won't stop until the world is better for everyone who walks upon it.
Tell us about your vision for the local community.
I just want us to be happy with ourselves and to truly do away with the demons that haunt us. Richmond is one of the most beautiful places on earth. When it comes to colorful personalities there is no rival. When it comes to diversity there is no rival. When it came to hope their is no rival. Yes, Richmond is violent. There is blood on the streets and in our backyards, tragedy such as gender based violence, rape, theft, and gang violence are real issues. Not everyone has to face poverty or struggle in Richmond, but everyone in Richmond knows what it looks like. And we let the blood define us. My hope is that we combat most of the problems that we face. I hope that we constantly push back and realize these problems are who we are, but in no way does it define us. Our colors and light are who we are. It's time that we believe that.
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