The 2023 Student Leadership Summit

Cover photo by yhelfman via iStock

Children Now’s 2023 Summit for Student Leaders was held in October to great success! The event featured a variety of incredible leaders that today’s youth organizers prioritized. We are thrilled that 140 youth leaders and advocates were able to actively engage in the Summit!  

Here is a sample of comments we received from the participants highlighting the personal impact of the Summit:  

“Big change starts small. I learned that anyone is capable of starting to implement changes in their communities through schools, and there will be a lot of support along the way! People will always want to help for the greater good!” 

“I found a universal lesson from the presentations given, and that is that I need to find my voice and find what I am passionate about. There are all kinds of opportunities for me out there, but it is only a matter of me speaking up and finding those resources that can help me make that change that I want to see.” 

You can view the Summit for yourself here:  

Day 1 

Day 2 

Stay tuned for further information about the Summit for Student Leaders program. If you wish to be involved in next year’s planning, outreach and engagement efforts, please fill out the form here:

This October 6th and 7th, students from all around California joined the 2023 Student Leadership Summit, a virtual student-led conference that focused on education and training, empowerment and connection building among students interested in creating change within their communities and beyond! 

A few words from Sara Ortega, who is leading the Student Leadership Summit’s planning efforts: 

I’m so excited for this Summit!  Our planning committee has been doing an amazing job in designing an event that will be engaging and relevant for students across California, no matter their previous experience or knowledge of policy and advocacy. Through a series of conversations, the students have designed a program that will feature several key and important topics for youth and young adults in California: gun violence prevention, education equity, mental health, climate justice, changemaking, and pathway creation.  There’s still a lot of work ahead of the summit, but we are so excited for you all to join and participate!  

A little about me: I was born and raised in California to Nicaraguan immigrant parents. My experiences growing up in a bicultural community inspired and drove me to pursue public health and public policy for my career. Since I joined Children Now, I’ve increasingly learned about policy and advocacy and have supported various Pro-Kid initiatives. 

I hope to support the student leaders in creating a fun and engaging event, where there is a lot of learning, skill building and strong connection building that lasts well beyond this summit. I’m so proud of the students participating in this summit, who are all passionate about challenging the status quo and creating more equitable and stronger communities locally, statewide, and beyond.   

Are you interested in supporting the Summit?  Reach out to Sara Ortega at [email protected] to learn more! 

Akshaya Aalla is the Founder and President at Its Her Right and is a Junior at Whitney High School, where she strives to bring passion and impact to her campus and community. She has an extensive background in democracy, currently serving on numerous youth boards and coalitions, along with working for multiple state-sponsored advocacy organizations to combat women’s inequity. 

Alex Liu is a senior at University High School in Irvine, CA. For the summit, he is a member of the recruitment teamHe is extremely passionate about engineering, education, and helping the community. At school, he is involved in various programs and clubs: including IMPACT, All for BIPOC, and CS+Social Good. Each of these clubs all aim to either guide new students, or help give everyone equal opportunities in the community. Outside of school, he helps teach students in need, whether that be computer science (MIT’s Scratch or C++), or also math. 

Ann Albumalalah is from El Camino High School in Sacramento and is currently a part of the Planning team and the Marketing sub-committee for the Summit.  Ann also serves as the Special Projects Director at the California Association of Student Councils. She is also involved with many organizations that focus on youth advocacy and leadership, which is a huge passion of hers. Ann is an avid book reader and loves conversing with others about their favorite reads! 

Doaa Mohammad is an uprising senior at Rio Americano High School and is involved with the summit’s recruitment and planning teamsDoaa is a Girls Who Code Participant and is also interested in pursuing STEM or Medicine in her career. Other areas of interest she has are psychology, her religion: Islam, neuroscience, and history. She is working on becoming her best self by learning more about the world and herself. 

Eric Yang is a San Diego, California native and a student at the University of Pennsylvania; he is also a Benjamin Franklin Scholar at the University and participates on the Penn BandYang is involved with many organizations and clubs, including California Forward. He is a member of the planning team and the tech and operations committee. For fun, he likes listening to jazz! 

Fiona Lu is a first-year student at University of California, Los Angeles studying Public Affairs and Labor Studies, and her hometown is in Orange County. 

She has been involved in advocacy for three years now, and she’s especially interested in the intersections of education, poverty, race and ethnicity, and social welfare. She serves in a variety of youth-led organizations that work primarily on bringing equitable solutions through policy changes and grassroots activism. Some policy initiatives she’s passionate about include building strong public schools, attending to the needs of impoverished women, youth, and families, expanding mentorship services, and promoting higher education accessibility. 

She hopes to pursue a career that explores the nonprofit sector, government, teaching, and academia. In her free time, she loves hanging out with her little brother, going on hikes, and drinking matcha. She’s excited to be involved with the planning committee and engagement subcommittee to create an awesome experience for California’s students. 

Gwen, born and raised in Los Angeles, is an incoming student at Emory University with plans to study Neuroscience & Behavioral Biology and Public Policy Analysis. She is particularly passionate about youth engagement and representation within the political sector and intends to pursue a career in research that examines political cognition and decision-making. For the Summit, she is part of the planning team and tech subcommitteeIn her free time, she loves to read every book she can get her hands on, experiment in the kitchen with new recipes, and travel with friends and family. 

Irving Alvarez (He, Him) Born into a first-generation immigrant family here in America Irving knew his indigenous Mayan and Garífuna back ground, coupled with the unique and complex pronunciation of his name, and topped off with his skin tone was not normal… to people! After dropping out of high school at 16 and starting his school to prison pipeline journey that same year, Irving soon learned that we can not trust or rely on systems that were not created for us to become successful. Irving joined the 2017-2018 Latino men’s advisory council in Chino State Prison and graduated in 2018 from NCCER (electrical design and engineering) in Chino State Prison. Post returning home in April 2018 Irving’s abolitionist mindset and interests grew after experiencing victories in MAC where while in prison Irving successfully advocated and campaigned to get Fans, microwaves, and flat screens TVs for all inmates to use during day time. This among other campaigning successes provided Irving with the thirst to keep the movement ferociously aliveNone the less experience which is among life’s greatest teachers played an incredibly pivotal role in the shaping of Irving’s insightful, compassionate, and trustworthy organizing and mobilizing capacityIrving is now a successful Program Consultant and fellowship lead. Irving is an abolitionist by heart and believes the only way to liberation is to find solutions instead of isolation, he stands in solidarity with abolishing all systems of oppression to see the sun shine on all flowers whose with seeds sown continuously give to create a fruitful earth. 

Jasmine McKnight is an incoming senior at Arcata High School in Northern California. She is the co-lead of the Arcata chapter of March For Our Lives, a youth led gun violence prevention organization founded by survivors of the Parkland shooting in 2018. McKnight also leads and founded her school’s Students Demand Action group. She is a member of our summit recruitment team and a member of the following clubs at her school: AHS Interact club, German club, go green club, medical careers club, and National Honors Society. In her free time, McKnight likes to hike, volunteer at the local animal shelter, wake surf, snowboard, and go to the beaches, lakes and rivers where she lives. 

Kavya Suresh is an incoming senior at San Marcos Senior High School in Santa Barbara, CA. She’s involved in the planning and recruitment teams for the 2023 Student Leadership Summit and helped organize the 2022 Ed100 Academy for Student Leaders as well. Kavya is passionate about social justice, education equity, mental health advocacy, environmental justice, and many other causes. In her free time, she loves listening to music, trying new foods, spending time in nature, and hanging out with her friends and family. Kavya is super excited for the 2023 Student Leadership Summit to inspire youth across California to be involved in advocacy and create change in their communities. 

Hannah Cho is a junior at Northwood High School in Orange County, California. Hannah’s activism journey began during the COVID-19 pandemic when she recognized a lack of student engagement and appreciation toward healthcare workers. Determined to make a difference, she collaborated with her school’s Student Government to organize a school-wide competition where students crafted thousands of origami butterflies with messages of gratitude on them for healthcare workers at local hospitals and throughout the school district. Since then, combining leadership and youth engagement with creativity and art has driven Hannah’s work. Today, she serves as a Create California Student Voices Leader, advocating for arts education and equity and empowering young artists statewide. She also channels her enthusiasm for historical research and teaching others through her National History Projects that have garnered local, state, and national recognition. In her free time, she loves thrifting, photographing on her digital camera, and creating playlists on Spotify. Hannah is so excited to serve as a Planning Lead and Engagement Subcommittee Chair for the 2023 Student Leadership Summit! 

Phillip Cao is from Walnut Creek and attends Northgate High School. He is a member of the planning and recruitment teams, and is a leader in our marketing subcommittee. In addition to his work with The Summit, he is a member of link crew, leadership, key club, CSF, Dear Asian Youth, and is forming and implementing new projects at his high school, including a  thrifting and Vietnamese club. For fun, Phill loves boba, shopping and being adventurous! 

Maya Murchison is 17 year olds and is an incoming senior at Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, California. Maya is a Youth Senator for the Black Student Union and serves as a member on the planning team and engagement subcommittee. In her free time, she loves to play volleyball and soccer. 

Rebecca Wang is 17 years old from the SF Bay Area and passionate about social change. She is a member of the planning team and the tech subcommitteeOver the past 3 years, she has founded and directed Hydra Hacks: the West Coast’s largest hackathon for marginalized genders. In addition to creating an iOS app that promotes inclusion in tech, she has developed SIREN: a gunshot detector and communicator to reduce response times during school shootings. Currently, Rebecca serves as a youth advisor to the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls. Her work has been recognized by Apple, Girls Who Code, and People Magazine. 

My name is Saadia Haynes. I am going into the 12th grade and attend Central East High School. I am president of my school’s Black Student Union Club, historian of Social Justice club, State Manger for Theater, member of Fresno county African American student superintendent advisory board, and Health Ambassador for Black Students of California United. During my down time I enjoy watching movies, television and trying new foods.  

Sue Oh (she/they) is a rising senior at Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton. Sue is passionate about policy, student voice, and identity equity. Sue is always exploring their cultural heritage as a first-generation Korean andtheir intersectionality. In their free time, you can find them reading, drinking coffee (caffeine addict here!), and playing with their lovable cats. 

Yoel Nrayo is a student at Rio Americano High School in Sacramento, CaliforniaHe is currently a part of his district’s student council, and he is the vice president for his school’s Key Club, president of the Investing Club, Vice President of the Medical Opportunities Club, HOSA Club, and the school’s medical assistant programHe is a member of the summit’s recruitment teamFor fun, he loves playing sports such as soccer and basketball, along with spend time with his friends. 

Zoe Hausler is from San Francisco, California and goes to Brewster Academy. She is involved in the planning and recruitment teams, and is a member of the engagement Subcommittee.  At Brewster, she participates in the Random Acts of Kindness club and work with the Selamta Program. For fun, she loves to eat Ice Cream!

Are you interested in supporting the Summit?  Reach out to Sara Ortega at [email protected] to learn more!