This April, four youth from AFSC PA's Racial Justice Through Human Rights (RJTHR) youth group attended a film-festival and advocacy event in Washington, D.C. called If I Had Trillion Dollars. These Pittsburgh youth along with 70 other young people shared their ideas for how to better prioritize the U.S. federal budget.

Our four RJTHR youth met with both Senator Casey and Senator Toomey's staff to talk about the importance of funding education and prioritizing the environment. Twelfth grader Emmet Hollingshead followed up with Senator Toomey's office with this eloquent thank you and continued request.

 

April 22, 2014

 

Mr. Baker*,

            On behalf of the American Friends Service Committee youth group, I would like to thank you for your time and energy meeting with us on the 14th of April. We appreciate that you listened to our concerns and we enjoyed the discussion. It is refreshing and encouraging to be able to meet with someone in your position. We would simply like to reiterate some of our concerns that we voiced last week about education and environmental protection.

            Firstly, we strongly feel that our country is not properly invested in education. The foundation of a state is the education of its youth. Those words are carved in stone in the side of my high school, yet I don't see them being acted upon on the state or national level. When you were listing reasons for why charter schools have had more success than public schools, one of the reasons you listed was better funding and resources. I would agree with you that we need to reform education, not just throw money at it, but when we have students that don't have books or chairs in the classroom, there is clearly a problem. We would also like to stress the importance of accessibility to post-secondary education. As college decisions near, I am seeing several of my friends be forced to turn down spots at Cornell, CMU, Brown, and other top tier universities due to monetary concerns. And it's not just with elite private schools. College prices everywhere are skyrocketing, and many American teens have turned to Pell Grants to help them continue their education. To not expand the Pell Grant would be dangerous, and to cut it would be disastrous. While I am aware that the federal government faces grave fiscal concerns, our most valuable resource is our children and our future. There is absolutely nothing that is more rewarding to invest in. I hope that in the future, Senator Toomey can work to help fix this growing problem with our nation's education system.

            Second, we see global warming as an ever-expanding threat that has been foolishly shrugged off by the American government. 98% of scientists conclude that global warming is real and that it could impact our entire way of life. The evidence is irrefutable. Something needs to be done about this impending crisis. I see your concern that Pennsylvania and numerous other states rely heavily on natural gas, coal, and oil for their economy. I also see your concern that further regulation could potentially slow those businesses. However, we face the possibility of having to entirely redraw world maps with the melting of the ice caps. We face the possible extinction of up to 1 million species of plants and animals within the next forty years alone. We face significant disruption of the global ecosystem, which I might remind you we are a very big part of. The risks of continuing our reckless usage of fossil fuels far outweigh the risks of switching to sustainable, renewable energy. Furthermore, jobs lost in the oil gas and coal industries would be brought back in jobs that include building and operating solar and wind farms, building more fuel efficient vehicles, building hydro-electric power generators and dams, and other things that would foster both economic growth and ecological recovery. This is another area that I hope the Senator will devote more time to in future months and years.

            Once again, I would like to thank you for taking the time to meet with us last Monday, and I wish you and the Senator all the best in continuing to represent the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

 

*Jeremy Baker is Senator Toomey's Legislative Correspondent