Youth Spotlight: My Experience at the Budget Forum

By Nazea, Current AALEAD Youth
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff

*Nazea has been a part of our MD Middle School Program and is now a part of our MD High School Program. We are so proud of her development as a leader not only in AALEAD but in her community!

I recently had the chance to represent AALEAD at the Montgomery County FY16 Operating Budget Public Forum. This meeting is for the public to [share where they think funding] from the Montgomery County’s operating budget for 2016 should go. Many community members were present to show their support for their various issues, including senior citizen services, affordable housing, and youth programming. [AALEAD gave me the opportunity] to ask the County Executive, Mr. Leggett, questions regarding issues that I felt were relevant to my life as a youth community member in Montgomery County. I learned a lot about what it means to be a leader and keep trying until you succeed.

When I first found out about this opportunity, I was very excited and honored to represent AALEAD alongside Bernard, another AALEAD youth. At our first preparation meeting, I brainstormed with Ari and Melor (MD High School Program Coordinator and MD Programs Manager) to think of some issues I could ask questions about. After some time, I decided on two questions. The first question was about the new student public bus policy in Montgomery County that reduces student access to the public bus system. Before, students could ride Metro Bus and Ride On buses with just their student ID, but the new policy excludes the Metro Bus from free student access, cutting out routes used by many students to get home safely. My second question was about how nonprofit organizations, like AALEAD, shouldn’t have to pay to use a room in public schools for youth development programs.

Finally, it was the big day of the forum and I got to the office around 4:45 PM. Before we all got started, we found out that Bernard wasn’t feeling well so he couldn’t come. I felt less excited and more nervous since the spotlight was now on me. When we arrived at the forum, I was still feeling nervous. After an overview of the budget, the question and answer section of the meeting began. A few people in the front asked questions and then it was my turn. A woman came around with the microphone and held it toward me. I started off my introduction strong and then I froze in the middle because I forgot what to say. Mr. Leggett saw that I was having some trouble with what I wanted to ask so he said that he would come back to me when I was ready. I went back to my seat feeling so disappointed in myself. I’ve always done public speaking and never frozen before. I knew I could do better.

The question and answer section was almost done when Mr. Leggett remembered me and handed me his own microphone to ask my question! I felt so happy because he remembered me. I confidently stood up and asked him to please continue to support youth development programs, [since he covered some of what I wanted to ask before]. I sat back down feeling very relieved. I even got a chance to take a picture together after the forum.

Although I messed up at first, I finished strong and said what I needed to say. I learned that sometimes you’re going to make a mistake, but it’s the way you come back and make it right that defines you. I also learned that preparation should be taken seriously because it reflects on what you present. I want to thank Ari, Melor, and Sharon for asking me to be a part of this amazing opportunity because I learned and experienced so much!

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