July 1, 2015
I’m from Roxbury, and when I was 12, my cousin Dakeira worked at ACE and I used to come to some of the events and member meetings with her. I had no idea what was going on – I just knew it was really fun. So when I got old enough, I became a member and participated in The City School’s Summer Leadership Program. Then I gave a speech, got elected as a Youth Organizer and I’ve been here for almost four years.
When I was a member, I worked on all of the campaigns. The asthma one was a big one – we went up to City Hall and wore breathing masks. The Youth Pass was a big one too – we went to the State House and held a die-in – that was the first really big rally I went to.
The Youth Pass is important to me because when I started REEP, I was just starting high school and I wasn’t getting a school bus to school anymore. I would have to pay for the MBTA, and at the time, I was putting $2.00 on every day to go to school and come home from school. That was two buses to school and two buses back – it was a lot of money.
My mom had to sign me up for free school lunch – I couldn’t buy lunch because we were paying for the bus. And bus drivers would know you’re going to school – it’s 8:00 in the morning and you have a backpack on – but they wouldn’t let you on if you didn’t have the fare. At that time, I got a Student Pass through school, but I lost it and they wouldn’t give me another one.
I don’t think it’s fair how passes are only given by schools because school is not the only place we have to go. One of my friends, for example, lives really close to her school, so she can’t get a Student Pass. But she still has to go to work, she’s still trying to find another job, and she still has to go to doctor’s appointments.
We can't go to those places if we don’t have money for them. A lot of my friends can’t get Student Passes because they live too close to their schools. When I moved to Dudley, I was too close to my school so I couldn’t get one either. That’s when I was paying $2 every day for the bus each way to the point where I was like, I’m going to walk to school.
Youth will definitely have more job opportunities with the Youth Pass. Now, if they have a job that’s not near their house, they can get to it without worrying about the fare. A lot of kids want a job to be able to pay for the bus – now they can get to their job and make money and get to school. I feel like a lot of kids don’t come to school because they can’t afford to get to school – it’s like their education is going down the drain and I don’t think that’s fair.
This campaign has been going on for eight years. That’s a long time. That’s since I was 10!
I want the pilot to be successful so that all of our work doesn’t go to waste. I want them to see the positive changes that happen when people have the Youth Pass, so they can understand that we needed this all along. If dropout rates decrease, that’s evidence that kids didn’t have a way to get to school.
The Youth Pass idea belongs to youth. We needed it, so we worked really hard to get it, with call-ins, sit-ins and everything else. It’s been really important. We’ve held some events in the rain, and that didn’t stop anybody. We still go forward.
After the Youth Pass pilot finishes, I hope the pass is put into place permanently. Next, we can work on other flaws of the T. We’re tackling one thing at a time.