Earlier this week, one of our awesome CP190 mentors Hugo Camacho was a featured speaker at his UCB Education Minor Commencement. We are so honored that he was invited by the Education Minor to share his experiences this semester as a mentor at McClymonds High School in his speech to all GSE faculty, students, parents and partners! His experience is further proof that Y-PLAN's uniqueness is rooted in the reciprocal learning experiences created and belief that everyone has lived experience to share. Read his speech in full below to hear it in his own words!

Good morning and thank you all for being here and celebrating with us!

To be honest with everyone, I have been nervous trying to come up with something special to say to you all today. But as I kept thinking and reflecting about everything I learned in my education courses, I remembered something I taught my students this semester: your lived experience is special enough. Your knowledge, your experiences and your understanding of the world is special enough.

I learned through Y-PLAN, which stands for Youth—Plan Learn Act Now, that we are all experts of our lives, experiences and communities. Y-PLAN is an amazing course, and an educational strategy that focuses on empowering young people by engaging youth in local city planning or community development projects. It bridges education and city planning—something we don’t really think about. How does city planning impact students and their education?

This semester, I was a mentor at McClymonds High School. I was working alongside two other mentors and our task was to ask our students to plan for their future—2050 to be exact. 2050. Think about it 2050.

Our students’ job was to create a proposal for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission agency in the Bay Area. They had to answer the question: how can your city and community thrive in the year 2050?

Our first day in the class was not at all what we expected. The students did not trust us, they were skeptical of the whole project and were not interested. To be exact, they thought it was all fake. Some students never took their headphones off and others walked out of the classroom and we never really saw them again. They did not want to participate. However, by the end of the semester, our students were happy, engaged, and excited about the project.

So, what changed? How did our students end up being happy and thrilled about a project that they did not care about at first?

Well I learned that they were happy because we listened, and through Y-PLAN, we were able to provide them with a seat on the table. They were able to voice out their concerns, thoughts and ideas to city planners, civic leaders, and other professionals about how Oakland should look like by 2050. They felt capable, empowered and validated.

Y-PLAN taught me that the future we are building is not for us. Young people are the future and if we are going to be making decisions about how that future should look like, then we need to include them in the decision-making process. Y-PLAN showed me the importance of community. What we were able to achieve as a class was only possible because of the wide network of support we received from our professor—from civic leaders, professionals and students. Most importantly, throughout this course I learned that that we are all experts of our lives, experiences and communities—our lived experience is special enough.