School News

UHS Students Advocate For Children By Meeting With Congress In Washington, D.C.

Samantha Hillmer and Emma VanZante, Urbandale High School students, joined Save the Children and its newly affiliated advocacy organization Save the Children Action Network at an Advocacy Summit on Capitol Hill April 21-22, 2015, to call on elected leaders to invest in children to give them a strong start in life. The Advocacy Summit is an annual two-day opportunity for inspiring young leaders to join supporters and partners who are committed to improving the lives of children. More than 150 participants from across the nation visited Washington, D.C. where they heard from powerful change-leaders, engaged in dynamic workshops, and spoke with members of Congress and their staff.

“My journey began with an unexpected invite to Washington, D.C.,” said VanZante. “Being only a junior in high school, I did not realize how impactful this experience would be. The Save the Children Advocacy Summit of 2015 not only brings awareness to the needs of children around the world, but helped me realize the impact I can have on Congress simply by using my voice to advocate for children. It prepared me for daring challenges and introduced me to new skills.  I am excited to see what will come next after such an amazing experience.”

Emma VanZante and Samantha Hillmer_SaveTheChildren
UHS Students: Emma VanZante and Samantha Hillmer

 Participants heard from such prominent speakers as former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Libby Doggett, deputy assistant secretary of Education for policy and early learning, Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post, and Abby Huntsman of MSNBC.  Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Representatives Kay Granger (R-Tex.) and Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) received Congressional Champion Awards.

“What an experience! Not everyone can say that they advocated to Senators or important people of Congress about a cause they were passionate about,” said Hillmer. “It is great coming back to Iowa with a new opportunity available for us to help children all over the globe.”

This year, Advocacy Summit participants asked policymakers to focus on giving children a strong start—by supporting early childhood education programs in the U.S. and by investing in key maternal, newborn and child health programs that save the lives of newborns and children around the world.

“Save the Children’s annual Advocacy Summit is designed to encourage youths from across America to become advocates for children here and around the globe. We are grateful to have had Samantha Hillmer and Emma VanZante join us in Washington, D.C. and use their voice,” said Mark Shriver, president of Save the Children Action Network. “These young advocates will ensure our political leaders know that together we can secure early education for every child in the United States and help kids survive around the world, making a better future for us all.”

In Iowa, Save the Children Action Network is mobilizing local business, elected, and community leaders to engage presidential hopefuls around a commitment to ensuring that every child, around the country and in Iowa, can have access to quality early childhood education programs.

“Having visited D.C. before, I was surprised at how much of an impact this particular experience had on me,” said Karlee McKibban, Talented & Gifted Teacher, Urbandale High School. “We worked with people from across the country to achieve common goals, met with and explained our position to elected officials, and we left the city feeling accomplished and empowered.  I am excited to see what Sami and Emma develop as a method to “bring back” their learning to Urbandale.”

The District would like to thank Karlee McKibban, Emma VanZante and Samantha Hillmer for their extraordinary representation of Urbandale in Washington, D.C. Their contribution, knowledge, and expertise of critical issues impacting education on a global scale are to be commended.

<<Portions of press release provided by Save the Children>>