Taking Action

Danny Stock

This fall, junior Anoushka Chander was accepted into a joint youth lobbying collective organized by the Brady Campaign for Gun Safety in collaboration with March for Our Lives DC and Team ENOUGH. Prior to joining the lobbying collective, Anoushka had twice lobbied on Capitol Hill with the GDS Policy and Advocacy Institute. Building upon those experiences, and with the training she’s receiving through the lobbying collective, she’s working to lift and empower others at GDS by starting the GDS Student Action Committee. 
 
Anoushka explained, “As youth in Washington, DC, GDS students have an overwhelming responsibility to represent our generation and our beliefs by making our voices heard, and by using the power of our position to influence our legislators. The Student Action Committee gives students an opportunity to turn their knowledge into action that will positively impact communities across the country. It seeks to mobilize students and connect them with national activist and advocacy groups that focus on issues that they are passionate about. It is a one-stop shop activism hub for students at GDS.”
 
Anoushka’s personal advocacy journey, through the support of the youth lobbying collective, remains boldly focused on tackling gun violence. “I applied for the collective because my friends at March for Our Lives DC and Team ENOUGH recommended it to me,” Anoushka said. “The Lobbying Collective has given us training sessions on lobbying and webinars on each piece of legislation we are lobbying for. We heard from speakers from communities most heavily impacted by gun violence: communities of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and religious communities.”
 
One of the only High School students among college students, Anoushka and the other teens in the collective have found that their voices communicate powerfully to lawmakers what most of us at GDS already know...that the young people are paying attention and won’t tolerate inaction. 
 
“Our presence in the offices of legislators affirms to them that the youth are paying attention and are acutely aware of what bills are being considered,” Anoushka said. 
 
On October 23, Anoushka and other members of the collective met with various senator and representative offices and lobbied for three specific bills: The Violence Deescalation Act (only in the House, no twin bill in Senate), the Assault Weapons Ban, and Extreme Risk Protection Orders. 
 
“Throughout our training, we learned how to connect our goals with the values of each office, and how to answer their concerns,” she explained. “I feel absolutely confident discussing national gun violence prevention policy with other people, and I feel incredibly grateful that I was able to learn about this issue from experts. We have another lobby day coming up on December 6, so I am looking forward to meeting with new offices and communicating our goals! In the House, many offices are hearing about the Deescalation of Violence Act for the first time—it was introduced in May 2019—so our voices in those spaces are critical.”
 
This semester, the GDS Student Action Committee will be working on a project with students at neighboring Wilson High School regarding the new vape shop that has opened in Tenleytown and the sale of vape and tobacco products at Wawa. “These stores have moved to the area specifically to target our age demographic,” Anoushka explained. “We’re creating a joint campaign with Wilson to try to get the vape shop to leave (that’s our end goal, anyway) and to get Wawa to stop selling vape products.”
 
“My personal advocacy goal is to see our circles [of influence] continuously expanding,” Anoushka said. “March for Our Lives DC is always searching for diverse voices to lift up and include in our conversations and activism. Advocacy work is encouraged [here at GDS] by the GDS Student Action Committee and the Community Engagement Office—any students who are interested should reach out to me or [director of community engagement and experiential learning] Jeremy Haft!”
 
Not only are our young people leading the way, but they are reaching out to lift each other, amplifying their message many times over. At GDS, students have the space, the skill building opportunity, and the support to create positive change.
 

The Policy and Advocacy Institute's Life Resettled group on Capitol Hill.
  • Community Engagement
  • High School