When President Obama came to visit Oakland in July, his speech at the Fox Theatre lit a spark that inspired two high school students from Oakland School for the Arts (OSA).
Junior Vocal Arts student Rebecca Dharmapalan and senior Literary Arts student Kerby Lynch decided to form a youth-led organization, Oakland Youth for Obama (OYFO), to build a coalition of politically conscious young adults and mobilize youth involvement in the upcoming election.
The OSA students recently held their first meeting on Saturday, Sept. 29 in Uptown Oakland where a group of friends from over six high schools came together over cupcakes and licorice, to talk about how to increase youth participation in politics and spread the message among their peers.
“Politics directly affects what we do every single day, the way we walk around, the way we eat, with taxes, the way we live; it directly affects us,” said Dharmapalan, the event chair and co-founder of the youth group.
“I think it’s so important for youth to understand getting involved in politics now is really going to affect the foundation for the way we’re living when we’re adults.”
Encouraging political engagement, the event provided an open forum for students to respond to President and First Lady Obama’s speeches at the Democratic National Convention and to voice their concerns about their most pressing issues.
“It’s not every day you see someone like him [Obama). He makes the impossible possible. He started off as a community organizer, he started off so small and he rose up to the ranks to really make change on massive levels, so he gives this hope to the impossible and that’s the change I want to do,” said Lynch, the group’s other co-founder and a self-proclaimed “Obama enthusiast.”
“ That gives me hope, to know that they [Barack and Michelle] did it, then I can do it.”
Dharmapalan and Lynch gave their own motivational speeches to the group. They opened the floor for Bryan Parker, chair of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board and Commissioner of the Port of Oakland, and Shonda Scott, CEO of PR firm 360 Total Concept, to encourage students to broadcast the message of civic engagement.