On Tuesday, March 16, a select group of eighth grade students participated in the first virtual NYS Mission to Albany, where they met with state legislators and senators. The program, originally held in Albany, was sponsored by Teach NYS, part of the Orthodox Union, and opening remarks were given by Sydney Altfield, the Grassroots engagement director, who encouraged students to speak out for what is important for their education.

This opportunity afforded the students the chance to discuss with their government representatives the importance of funding private schools. The group of 38 YCQ students gathered in the lunchroom and joined in the virtual event with over 300 other yeshivos and day schools that participated in the program, as well. The students met with Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal’s liaison and discussed with him both what is lacking in private schools and how continued and additional funding would greatly enhance the academics in the schools, especially in the fields of STEM. Senator Joseph Addabbo, who had previously helped raise $57 million dollars for our STEM funding, joined in YCQ’s breakout room and talked about the importance of having a voice in government and how even students have a say.

Several YCQ students were chosen as speakers and presented issues and benefits with Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal’s representative. They learned about lobbying and how everyone does matter in helping to better our schools. Some of the issues they discussed were the need for funding for better technology, art classes, more hands-on STEM programs, and especially for more inclusion programs for special education children. “Though we weren’t able to go to Albany, the virtual mission wasn’t any less exciting. We got to speak with council members and discuss issues that are presented in our school and why we should get funding for them. I lobbied about many things like receiving funding to have events that include the “special ed” students and about better technology in our school. This mission proved to me that our opinions and voices are being heard,” said Sarah Owadeyah who participated in the program.

After the students met with their local politicians, they heard from Carlos and Gabby’s, while they were given a speech by Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, who told the students how she came to be in her job. She explained to the students that they were the next generation of people who were going to make a change in the country, and that all they needed to do was to find their voice; even though their voice is quieter and smaller than adults, it is still very valued, and if they see a problem, they need to speak up to help solve the issue.

By Maya Kikov and Esther Nazarov, Grade Eight