Tell us about yourself.
I’m Jennifer Aguiar (Jenny for short) from the PB Vallejo Youth Committee and I am going to be a senior at Jesse Bethel High School. I live in East Vallejo by Stephan Maner Elementary School and have lived in Vallejo practically my whole life.
How did you first get involved in PB, and why?
I was one of the many students at the Jesse Bethel Assembly that PB Vallejo held, and that is where I first heard of the Participatory Budgeting process. Actually, I came in for the free pizza (I was attracted by a sign that said “FREE PIZZA!”), but I stayed because I saw an opportunity to make a change. Before this, I had little to no experience in working with my community, but I had always been interested. When I saw the video about what a district in New York had done and what they had accomplished I thought, “I wanna do something like that.” Just fixing the cracks on some basketball courts made all the difference to many people, something that I had yet to experience. During the assembly I still did not really know what PB was all about, but I wanted to. So when they asked who wanted to be a PB delegate, I said go ahead and sign me right up.
I came in for the free pizza… but I stayed because I saw an opportunity to make a change.
What did you end up doing in the PB process?
I signed up to be a delegate on the Youth Committee. We were a committee full of collaboration. It was interesting to see a project only one person was interested in turning into a proposal that everyone wanted to pitch in on. When it came time to meeting the people a particular project involved, such as meeting the Intertribal Council for the Powwow, all of us wanted to go! Even when we tried to assign one person to work on writing the draft of one proposal, we all ended up working on them as a group, one at a time. Everything we did we tried our best to do it together.
What most surprised you about your experience with PB?
What surprised me the most about this experience was the enthusiasm of the other youth delegates. It’s not everyday that I talk to people my age who are truly willing to put in the time and the effort to bring about change in Vallejo.
What were the biggest impacts of PB on your community? On you as a person?
In some parts of the Vallejo community there was a stronger sense of unity that has emerged from PB. Personally, it just opened my eyes to what it was like to actually do something that means something to people, if that makes sense. A lot of the youth don’t realize the power they can possess to make a better change in Vallejo by taking part in the PB process. I now know I have the ability to help not just this community, but many more, and it is in part due to getting involved in the PB process. I want to see Vallejo progress towards a better future where people can say they were proud to grow up here.
– October 2013