As a child in San Francisco, Jessica Inson remembers many late nights in which she did not see her mother.
Jessica’s mother was a single parent of two kids living in one of America’s most expensive cities. The family’s life was not easy. “She worked a lot of really late nights,” Jessica recalls.
She and her older brother would often stay up late at night to see their mother walk through the door. They wanted to know that she was safe. “Most of the time, our grandmother would take care of us,” Jessica says.
“One of my strongest memories as a child is seeing my mother stand up before the Board of Education, fighting to keep an after-school program from getting its funding cut. It was the only resource my mother had as a single parent, a place my brother and I could go after school, since she was working most of the time.”
As Jessica grew up, the cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area soared. When Jessica was in high school, her mother moved the family 20 minutes south, to less expensive Daly City in San Mateo County.
Jessica had been attending June Jordan School for Equity, a social justice high school in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). In her sophomore year, to fulfill the school’s requirement that each student be involved in a community organization, she had begun volunteering at Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth.
Jessica immediately gravitated to the organization’s underlying belief that the people most affected by a problem must be the ones who determine and fight for the solution.
After the move, Jessica recalls her mother receiving a letter from SFUSD saying that Jessica could not continue her education at June Jordan School for Equity because the family no longer lived within San Francisco’s city limits.
But Jessica advocated for herself and succeeded in continuing at June Jordan School for Equity, though she temporarily attended another school.
“The schools I was in and my own life experiences have shaped my perspective on many of the struggles people in the community are facing,” Jessica says.
All of this motivates her to work for change.
She was a powerful spokesperson and leader in a campaign of the Communities United for Health and Justice Coalition that successfully advocated development of new affordable housing in San Francisco.
She also became, in meetings with elected officials and others, a representative of low-income young people of color whose families had been forced out of the city because of gentrification.
Today, Jessica, 19, attends California State University – East Bay. Money from her Shriver Award went to support her tuition. “I’ve thought about teaching,” she says.
Until recently, she had not selected a major. Now, though, she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies with a minor in political science. Both fit her well.
And working on national campaigns at Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth and reflecting on her life and her mother’s accomplishments certainly helped guide her decision.
Each story in the “America’s Next Leaders 2015” special series features a young person who contributes to his or her community and who has received a Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Leadership Award. Each year, Marguerite Casey Foundation, which publishes Equal Voice News, honors young people with this award. The Bay Area Equal Voice Coalition nominated Inson for the award. Read last year’s stories about award recipients.
2015 © Equal Voice for America’s Families Newspaper
See video of Jessica on Equal Voice
– See more at: http://www.equalvoiceforfamilies.org/special-series-its-all-about-equity-for-bay-area-woman/#sthash.sy4YwtFM.dpuf
Photo of Jessica by
– Mathhew Ryan for the Margret Casey Foundation.