System reform iconSystem Reform
Johnathan Hemphill


Once again a yearlong endeavor of brainstorming, problem solving, proposal drafting, summit presentations, and statewide leadership conferences by youth and young adults across the state has come to a climax, with the biggest youth advocacy event of the year — Youth Advocacy Day 2019! In Olympia, the capital of our state, the doors of the United Churches of Olympia became an entryway to conviviality and anticipation of the day’s events.

Lead Advocacy Agenda

End Jailing Youth
for Non-Criminal Behaviors

Include Young Adults with
Lived Experience on Boards
and Commissions

Improve Transition Planning
for Youth Aging Out of
Foster Care

Improve Foster Parent
Recruitment & Retention
by Expanding Funding for

While the morning’s final speech rehearsal was underway, well over one hundred youth, young adults, and allies from across the state were welcomed with smiles, Mockingbird’s signature orange and purple scarves, nametags, friends, and many familiar faces; and, of course, warm coffee and breakfast downstairs.

On cue, the doors of the inner sanctum were opened and the waiting participants flooded in as the masters of ceremony, Maven and Orion, took the stage, both giving stellar and memorable opening remarks. Orion then welcomed Mockingbird’s Executive Director, Annie Blackledge, to the stage. Annie thanked and gave both Orion and Maven a warm hug of gratitude for all their work. Following Annie, an array of fantastic speakers including Spokane Chapter Leader Tyrell, Secretary Ross Hunter, Network Representative Farid, Tacoma Chapter Member Yasmin, and Hub Home provider Shana shared their own personal stories about the power and impact of youth advocacy.

Sec. Hunter set the tone by saying, “Today, you are the most powerful people in Olympia.” After the speeches, participants hurried to find their group leaders, and soon after began to strategize on their meetings with their legislators. As the teams of advocates headed off to over 40 meetings, the capital campus became ground zero for transformation. The halls of the Capitol became pathways for change with every step taken forward by Mockingbird Advocates; crucial steps on a long trail to a fully transformed foster care system and the end of youth homelessness.

“Today, you are
the most powerful people
in Olympia.”
— Secretary Ross Hunter

As meetings with the legislators ended, snow began to fall. Cold but undeterred, youth assembled on the north steps of the Capital building for one final hoorah! Together with their chapters, allies and thought-provoking signs having powerful phrases such as “Nothing About Us, Without Us” and “No Crime, No Time”; the crowd, led by Johnathan, began chanting “End youth detention, do more prevention” and “Let us have say, no better way” as loud as they could. The sound of youth voice could be heard across the entire Capitol campus. The march proceeded across the campus grounds with chanting all the way back to the church.

Upon their return the advocates were met by familiar faces and once again headed into the inner sanctuary. This time they were greeted with a wonderful performance by the amazing Bridge Music Program. A job well done, we ate lunch, said our goodbyes and headed off, racing the impending snow storm. Congratulations to all the advocates for their hard work on Youth Advocacy Day, a day that plays a critical role in transforming foster care and ending youth homelessness! 

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Your Work

We welcome submissions of articles, poetry, artwork, and photography from our young readers who have experience in the foster care system and/ or homelessness. If you want to be, or have been, published in the Mockingbird Times visit, call us at (206) 407-2134 or email us at youthprograms@ Note: Incoming letters to the editor and correspondence to youth under 18 years should be addressed to the Mockingbird Times and will be opened first by adult editorial staff.