Photo of about 20 students with several adult school administrators or teachers some wearing coats and scarves, gathered in a group outside on the steps in front of a large government building. In the top right corner of the photo is the PWCS logo of the head of a graduate with a cap and the text Learning and Achievement for All, Futuros Prosperos, Thriving Futures

In a significant move to engage young Americans in political discourse, on January 30, the White House hosted the “Starting Point Youth Engagement Forum,” a collaborative effort with the Close Up Foundation and A Starting Point, co-founded by Chris Evans and Mark Kassen.

The event, aimed at senior students who participated in PWCS leadership workshops, was marked by a lively moderated discussion between Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, facilitated by Evans and Kassen.

“As a first-generation immigrant from Argentina, having the opportunity to be involved in the government decision-making process has always been limited,” expressed Camila, a senior at Charles J. Colgan Sr.  High School. “Going to the White House and connecting with A Starting Point gives me great hope for the future of civic participation- not only for myself, but for the next generation of students willing to advocate for democracy.”

The forum was introduced by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and focused on critical issues such as economic opportunity, job creation, and climate action.

“I took away that there are so many ways to grow and change and find out what you want to do right now that will ultimately pave the path toward your future,” reflected Joshua, Forest Park High School senior. “Hearing Secretary Adeyemo’s past really inspired me.”

A Starting Point provided a platform for students to engage directly with policymakers and voice their concerns and ideas on government support for initiatives like achieving carbon net-zero and expanding clean energy to underprivileged families.

Students like Isabella, senior from Gainesville High School, praised the forum for making political conversations accessible to first-time voters and Jessica, senior at Potomac High School, described her interactions with government officials as awe-inspiring, underlining the importance of civic engagement.

The event provided a unique educational experience for the students and reinforced the importance of youth involvement in democracy and policymaking. It showcased the commitment of government officials to listen to and include the younger generation in discussions that shape their future, instilling a sense of responsibility and enthusiasm among the participants to contribute positively to their communities and the nation.

Brentsville District High School senior, Cat, concluded, “The biggest take-away that I learned from the event was that for every big action, small steps need to be taken first.”