State Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint) and Generation Progress partnered last week to co-sponsor the first ever Young Leaders Economic Summit in Texas. The policy event was held at the Texas State Capitol, bringing together young leaders and advocates from across the state interested in overcoming barriers to economic engagement and creating an impact on our economy.
Rep. Mary Gonzalez had this to say about the opportunity to bring the summit to Texas:
- “When Generation Progress mentioned this plan to me, and their intention to include Texas as one of the four state summits, I immediately saw the importance of this opportunity for young leaders across our state,” State Rep. González said. “Young people in Texas are struggling, and more often than not, they feel disengaged from the economy.
Millennials in Texas are innovative, intelligent, passionate, and driven – but they need policies that will support their engagement in the economy. This Summit gives young leaders across the state a seat at the table, so that we can create policy that really addresses their needs and opens up avenues for their success.”
Burnt Orange Report got hold of a panelist at the Young Leaders Economic Summit, Brakeyshia Samms, to ask her what issues millennials are currently facing and will continue to face in the future if attention isn’t brought upon these problems.
Our interview below:
- First, tell us a little about yourself and the organization you work for:
Samms: I joined the Center for Public Policy Priorities in August 2014 as a State Policy Fellow through the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ State Policy Fellowship Program. I work with the Investing in Texas team, where I analyze state budget and tax policy to ensure that all Texans are able to thrive in today’s economy. The Center is an independent public policy organization that uses data and analysis to advocate for solutions that enable Texans of all backgrounds to reach their full potential. Our mantra is to dare Texas to be the best state for hard-working people and their families.
What panel discussion were you a part of at the Young Leaders Economic Summit?
Samms: I was a panelist on the, “Bridge Builders: How do we build an economy for the new American majority?” session. During this panel, we discussed the primary economic challenges facing my generation, paying specific attention to issues affecting communities of color, women, and immigrant and first-generation workers.
What made you want to be a part of the Young Leaders Economic Summit?
Samms: I knew it would be a great opportunity to meet other young leaders from across the state. In addition, I knew we would have a great dialogue about the issues facing millennials in Texas. I also wanted to share my experiences and analysis with all of the participants. I am a millennial who wants other millennials to recognize what is going on in our state and learn about what we can do to fix it.
Why do you think it is important for millennials to become more involved in the policy discussions concerning the economy?
Samms: The policy decisions that Texas lawmakers make today will affect the future Texas that millennials will inherit. I cannot say that enough. Millennials have to realize that our economy will thrive when fair-wage jobs are available and when a quality college education is affordable. I’m tired of stories about millennials who can’t find a job or have to work part-time jobs just to get by. This is something that needs to change, and that is why millennials must make their voices heard and tell their stories.
What is one major economic issue millennials are facing or might face in the future that needs our utmost attention?
Samms: A fair-wage job is not too much to ask for, right? Think again. The issue of a lack of quality jobs hurts the economic vitality of this country, especially for millennials who are just entering the workforce. With national student debt at an all-time high, how are millennials supposed to pay back their loans? This issue needs our utmost attention.
What advice might you give other young leaders to help support their engagement in the political process?
Samms: The political process can at times seem very daunting, but my advice is to do your homework, earn your stripes, become invaluable, and never ever forget where you came from.
In a state with leaders wishing to suppress young voters from even voting, it is vital for millennials to do our homework on important issues that affect us (i.e. student debt, education cuts, fair-wage jobs, etc.) and make our voices heard. Education in particular is an issue that not only affects millennials directly, but also the future of Texas.
“Research shows that a college-educated workforce creates a more economically vibrant community. From higher personal incomes to less reliance on public assistance to lower unemployment rates and lower crime rates, education will help deliver the Texas we all want,” Samms said.
If our current leaders are willing to cut education funds on our future’s expense, it is up to us to organize and shape policy in ways that secure our futures. Millennials interested in more opportunities like the Young Leaders Economic Summit and other progressive resources can find more information by visiting Generation Progress’ website.
You can follow Brakeyshia Samms on Twitter at @BrakeyshiaSamms.