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Millennium Momentum Fellowship Award Winner Explores Public Service and National and California State Policy
School of Public Policy students David Andrade and Lily Wong were recently named Millennium Momentum Fellowship (MMF) award winners for their exceptional and sustained commitment to public service. The fellowship includes a grant and a year of private mentorship by elected Los Angeles-based officials and executives at prominent nonprofits or sponsoring corporations. The Millennium Momentum Foundation honors students and young professionals from various ethnic backgrounds in public service-related fields.
After graduating from UC Santa Barbara with a sociology degree in 2005, Andrade joined SPP and was admitted to the MMF Leadership Institute, which led to internships with the California State Controller’s Office and congressman Howard Berman in Washington, D.C. The second-year international relations and politics major’s research at SPP focuses on immigration issues, drug policy, Latin American affairs, and the reconstruction of post-earthquake Haiti.
Wong, a first-year state and local policy student, graduated from UC Davis in 2007 as a political science and psychology major, then worked in a San Francisco-based after-school program helping teenagers to build job skills and find their first jobs. “I’m passionate about working with the voiceless communities that can’t vote—the youth and immigrant communities—and giving them access to the system in some way,” she says.
We ask Wong about her work in public policy so far, her plans for the future, and what she thinks about current issues in politics.
What was it that first got you interested in public policy?
I've been politically active since I was 14 years old, starting with learning about the power of individuals working with each other. In high school, I advocated for youth rights and helped create programs to help students in San Francisco. My background in organizing solidified my belief in people impacting the government. Even when I don't agree with the reasoning of some people who gather, I am glad to see that in the United States, people are able to collaborate and make changes in their community. I've seen the results of reasonable ideas coming to fruition and this makes me more eager to work within the political world.
That's why you decided to pursue it further in education?
I also want to be sure that good policy is created. Too often I've seen an ignorant person with power failing to encompass the ideas of others and makes decisions based on what he feels is correct. These people end up failing the community and destroying potential. I enjoy public policy, because we are all taught to work toward the best solution. It may not be the perfect solution, but encompassing a variety of ideas and experiences can create a functional solution.
How has your public service work thus far prepared you for your post-SPP plans?
My experience organizing, working within my community and working within government has helped me realize the area I want to work in. I realized I wanted to work within government because I can make the most impact. I understand how lobbyists and organizers work and will take these skills with me when I work.
What areas of California policy concern you? What would you change if you could?
California's education policy is failing our students. Post-Prop 13, California has dropped to nearly last in all the states in terms of education. I'm concerned about the value of the education students are currently obtaining in public schools, as well as their chances to achieve in the future. In my background as a Coordinator for the Mayor's Youth Employment and Education Program (MYEEP) in San Francisco, I've seen intelligent students being failed by the school system. Time and again, I had young people who were unable to understand information because of a language barrier or simply because they didn't receive encouragement from teachers or mentors. I would like teachers to be better trained and better supported to work in the school system, especially in an urban environment. I would also like students to be challenged more in school, and support systems to be put into place so they do not fall through the cracks of the system.
Conversely, what do you think California gets "right," when compared with other states?
California is leading the country in technology. We have made strides in both environmental technology and general computer technology.
What are your thoughts on the results of the November 2 elections?
Two years ago, we moved fully toward the Democratic ticket because the public demanded a change. In November, the public shifted more toward the Republican ticket, because they were dissatisfied. I believe regardless of how we voted, there will need to be more bipartisanship within our government.
What do you think about this recent Wikileaks controversy? How do you think it might impact diplomacy and policy?
My understanding is that there is no life-threatening sensitive information. It does raise the question of national security and how to secure information. It is likely to make Secretary of State Clinton's job a little more difficult, as she will have to work with foreign leaders. The information itself though, was more similar to personal observations, and I doubt it will cause more than a little ire between diplomats.
Finally, do you have anything else you'd like included or mentioned?
I'm very thankful for all the opportunities I've been given in the past, as I've learned from each place I've worked or volunteered. I'm especially grateful for all my mentors who have helped me develop my view of the world and continue to support me in my efforts.