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On March 21, a delegation of eleven students from three of our local Catholic high schools traveled to Sacramento for Catholic Youth Advocacy Day to lobby state political leaders.

The eleven students came from Aquinas High School in San Bernardino, Notre Dame High School in Riverside and St. Jeanne de Lestonnac Catholic High School in Temecula. Students had prepared with their teachers to be ready to discuss with our elected leaders the various bills and the certain position for which they were advocating.

“Whenever I see a bill, I think, ‘How does this align with the Catholic Church?’” said Notre Dame student Nicholas Kendall. “People should take their Church values into their voting.”

His sentiment was shared by fellow Notre Dame student Lily Webster. “My Catholic faith has determined my entire moral compass and how I look at the world and how I look at legislature and policies,” Webster said.

Catholic Youth Advocacy Day takes place annually, although for this particular group of students, it was their first time participating. The students’ day began bright and early, gathering at 5 a.m. at Ontario International Airport.

When they arrived in Sacramento, they were welcomed by the Director of Education for the California Catholic Conference (CCC), Samara Palko. The students reviewed the bill summaries provided by the CCC for their specific bills and rehearsed the “asks” they had prepared for their elected representatives with their teachers and students from other Catholic schools. Soon after, they were led to the Capitol Building where their lobbying day began.

The students had scheduled appointments with both assemblymembers and state senators. Their meeting locations varied from conversations in a lobby area, to in front of the representative’s office, to meeting in private conference rooms and committee rooms. At noon, they paused their lobbying activities for Mass at Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by a quick bite before heading off to the remainder of their appointments. Students who did not have appointments following mass were invited to attend live committee hearings in the Capitol Building. They engaged in meetings and expressed how they felt firsthand their active, faithful participation in the political process.

The students flew home that same day, landing around 6 p.m. Despite the fact that students had to battle cold rain and a long day with lots of walking, they expressed their appreciation at the chance to represent their Catholic values to our state leaders and to be more involved in the political process.

“I’ve grown a lot and learned [about] applying my Catholic faith to new bills and real-life applications ... it’s important to display my faith in politics because in reality our beliefs aim for common good and to protect God’s creation and the dignity of all human life,” said St. Jeanne de Lestonnac student Julianna Linsalato.

The Office of Advocacy & Justice for Immigrants, which coordinated the event, would like to give a special thanks to the teachers and school staff who helped make this event possible through preparing them for it and/or chaperoned them.