Engaging young people in advocacy, education & prevention
Creating social change around alcohol, drugs, and more

Wait…so we do have a voice?

December 11, 2008 8:03 pm Published by 3 Comments

On November 17th, I received a phone call at about 3:29 pm. The new Target in the Pacific View Mall wanted an off-sale license to be able to sell alcohol. There was a City Council meeting going on that night in which Target would be asking the City Council to overturn the Planning Commission’s decision to deny the Conditional Use Permit that would allow this. Was I willing to speak up as a community member and let the City Council know my opinion on this issue?

I thought to myself, “That would be cool.” I mean, there is only so much physiology that you can study in one night without wanting someone to knock your Parietal with a heavy, blunt object. I hurriedly called my mother and she said that I could go; in the case that I washed the dishes and picked up my brother by 5:15, a typical mom move.

I jumped on the bus and waited for it to hurry home, all the while thinking of points to make during my speech and doing Karaoke to my iPod along with my friend Sierra. Nothing came to mind as Sierra was choosing the songs and Britney Spears was blasting in my ear. Maybe I could wait until I got home.

I got home at about 4:15 and started the dishes while researching all I could about the area of Pacific View Mall. Just over an hour later I was riding in a car to City Hall, nervous about making a short speech. I was reviewing my notes in my iPhone and discussing talking points with Straight Up Director Katherine Kasmir as we drove through town.

We got to City Hall and sat down for what seemed like a very short time while the Council talked of the homelessness issue, Thanksgiving and gave awards to some eco-friendly children. It was hard to pay attention while doing last minute thinking on how to best express myself. I hadn’t realized before that this meeting was being televised!

Then we got to item # 7. As I scribbled notes on small pieces of paper, I listened to the Target representative’s speech. It was semi-convincing, but I didn’t think all her points were accurate. When she said that no community members had spoken up against allowing Target the alcohol license, I was so glad to be there on behalf of many young people in Ventura that are working for community change on alcohol issues.

Suddenly it was the time when community members could speak. The first person was called and, Jiminy Cricket, just my luck, it was me. Public speaking is the number 1 fear in society, number 2 being death!

My notes were shaking in my hand as I slowly walked to the pulpit. Normally, I love attention. I’m not afraid to speak in front of people. But this time I felt nervous and, I struggled to find my words a couple of times. I’m not a big speech maker, but I had something to say, and it was nice to have been given the chance to say it.

Katherine gave me a thumbs up as I went anxiously back to my seat. A few other community members spoke and the Council members discussed their thoughts on the issue. I wasn’t sure which way the vote would go.

Finally, they cast their votes and the City council had decided to uphold the Planning Commission’s decision. They said NO to Target selling alcohol in the Pacific View Mall location! I felt a gleaming sense of pride as my stomach was spinning around on an emotional rollercoaster. My response was slow as I was still recovering from my speech, but I felt fantastic.

So often, we as teens don’t feel like we have a voice in the world. We feel that adults look down on us because we’re simply “not old enough to understand.” We feel like our words are not valued, or that people don’t care. This is how I felt. Until now, I thought that my opinions didn’t matter, that my voice wouldn’t be heard, that my ideas wouldn’t be considered. Now I know that I was wrong about that.

Don’t be afraid to speak up and take a stand, because there is someone always willing to listen.

Brandon F. is a high school student from Ventura, and a Straight Up spokesperson.