As 14-year old Kayla Brathwaite sat on a train heading to the nation’s capital, she rehearsed the speech she would give in front of Congress.
Brathwaite, a resident of Ozone Park and a student at Park East High School in Manhattan, spoke in front of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services on March 13, urging them to continue giving $1.15 billion in funding to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
Brathwaite said she’s been going to her local YMCA after-school program since she was eight and felt the need to give back to the program.
“It’s been such a large influence on my life,” Brathwaite said.
During her testimony, Brathwaite said the YMCA has influenced countless lives, including her own.
“I am here today for all youth who need these programs to succeed and for all parents who need these programs to help keep their jobs and for the employers who employ those parents,” she said in her written testimony. “We should not forget that these programs or the lack of these programs will have an effect on our economy.”
The teen has had experience in dealing with government officials in the past. Back in 2012, Brathwaite introduced First Lady Michelle Obama in Washington, D.C. at a Partnership for a Healthier America summit, an opportunity that was provided to her through the YMCA.
Currently, Brathwaite participates in the Teens Take the City program, where teens imitate how local governments work, passing laws and ordinances. She hopes to become a counselor for the upcoming summer session.
“I think the YMCA can help everybody,” she said. “If you didn’t have an opportunity to go, it’s never too late.”
-BY ANTHONY O’REILLY