Less Talk, More Game: My Experience in the GDS Policy Institute

At GDS, conversations about social action tend to be all talk and no game. However, the GDS Policy and Advocacy Institute is one place where things get done and continue to get done. As the name of the program indicates, the Policy Institute is about turning ideas into action.

This year, the summer program’s three tracks were titled “Addressing Sexual Assault and Consent,” “Life Resettled,” and “Waging Life in the DMV.” The courses each run for four weeks. During that time, students volunteer, research relevant policies, and create a project. The projects must demonstrate how each group will use their new knowledge to create positive change in the community. Collectively, we are all working on a joint assembly to showcase our work.

The team in “Addressing Sexual Assault and Consent” worked on a presentation to teach consent education to GDS Lower/Middle School students. Members of “Life Resettled” worked with people in Delaware to set up a micro-lending program, which loans small amounts of money to people in need. They also redesigned the website for an organization they worked with, The Rosa Health Center. The students in my track, “Waging Life in the DMV,” accomplished three things. First, we created a 60-second documentary on Initiative 77, a measure that would eliminate tipped minimum wage in D.C. Next, we planned an assembly panel with organizations such as Pathways to Housing and Fannie Mae. Finally, we partnered with For Love of Children (FLOC), a D.C. educational non-profit, to help implement their new City Leaders Program (CLP) for D.C. high school students. Currently, we are helping FLOC with their newest project: a proposal to build a rooftop garden.

This garden will grow essential and affordable produce for families in Southeast, the area with the most food deserts in D.C. Our hope is that GDS students and CLP students will gain an understanding of sustainability and creating a business model.  

The importance of youth employment and business experience was frequently discussed in my group. Gaining these skills as teenagers and committing to them will benefit CLP and GDS students in our future households and employment opportunities. This year and every year, the Policy and Advocacy Institute successfully moves theory into action.

By: Margaux Van Allen