Seattle Hall Pass Podcast

E31 - Turn Up the Volume on Student Voice, with Chetan Soni of the Washington Youth Alliance

March 18, 2024 Christie Robertson & Jane Tunks Demel Season 1 Episode 31
E31 - Turn Up the Volume on Student Voice, with Chetan Soni of the Washington Youth Alliance
Seattle Hall Pass Podcast
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Seattle Hall Pass Podcast
E31 - Turn Up the Volume on Student Voice, with Chetan Soni of the Washington Youth Alliance
Mar 18, 2024 Season 1 Episode 31
Christie Robertson & Jane Tunks Demel

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Email with questions, comments, or corrections.

Christie and Jane talk with Chetan Soni, an 18-year-old student and activist who has been a strong advocate for youth voice. We discuss mental health, gun violence, climate concerns, college and career readiness, and more.

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Music by Sarah, the Illstrumentalist, logo by Carmen Lau-Woo.
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Show Notes Transcript

See our Show Notes
Email with questions, comments, or corrections.

Christie and Jane talk with Chetan Soni, an 18-year-old student and activist who has been a strong advocate for youth voice. We discuss mental health, gun violence, climate concerns, college and career readiness, and more.

Support the Show.

Music by Sarah, the Illstrumentalist, logo by Carmen Lau-Woo.
Sign up for our newsletter

See our Show Notes
Email with questions, comments, or corrections.

[00:00:00] Christie Robertson: Welcome to Seattle Hall Pass, a podcast with news and conversations about Seattle Public Schools.

[00:00:11] Jane Tunks Demel: Today, our guest star is Chetan Soni. 

Chetan is a passionate advocate a student at Seattle Central College and the board president of the Washington Youth Alliance in Seattle. 

[00:00:21] Christie Robertson: On top of all this, he's also technically a senior in Seattle Public Schools and has been very involved in activism related to student voice for years. We brought him here today to talk about his journey as a student activist and to introduce you all to the Washington Youth Alliance, which he founded last year. 

[00:00:40] Jane Tunks Demel: And I'll give our standard disclaimer here that everyone's opinions are their own. Welcome Chetan. 

[00:00:45] Jane Tunks Demel: Thank you so much for coming today. 

[00:00:47] Christie Robertson: Yeah, we're excited to have you. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got involved in advocacy? 

[00:00:54] Chetan Soni: Yeah, so my background in advocacy — a lot like other youth organizers my age — was, really early. It started when I was 12 years old in North Carolina, where I'm from. And the climate movement I was involved in, the Sunrise Movement, helped stop a coal plant from being built, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. And it was a really powerful moment and kind of put me into the activist type of spotlight. 

And then got to really work with folks at the Chapel Hill level in order to establish a Mayor's Youth Commission and fight for gun violence prevention. Even then, there was an active lockdown at our school and active shooter drills were also really common in North Carolina. Super-traumatizing to kids. And so really glad they banned them in Washington State. 

Those are my origins. And then I transferred over here to Seattle.  

I really got involved in political type of work in 2020 for Jamie Smith down in the Puyallup area. She was running for state house. That was my really first intersect into electoral politics. 

From there, I served as Youth Team Director for Andrew Grant Houston. He ran for Mayor of Seattle. It was a really great experience for me.  We got to employ, I believe it was six youth, all under the age of 18 that were paid and then 30 youth volunteers. It was my first time really leading a team. And we did an amazing GOTV work session. 

[00:02:27] Christie Robertson: GOTV, for people who don't know, is “get out the vote.”

[00:02:30] Chetan Soni: Oh, yes. “Get out the vote.” Yes. Thank you for that. 

And then from there, I worked as a political consultant with Riall Johnson at Prism West, and that was really, really cool experience. I worked on 15 different campaigns and consulted on different field type of strategies, so door knocking, texting, phone calling... 

And then from there really got my start into the nonprofit and gun violence prevention sphere in Washington State. I joined the alliance for gun responsibility as a fellow, and from there, got promoted to be a field organizer and now the outgoing operations coordinator.

[00:03:08] Jane Tunks Demel: Chetain, how old are you now?

[00:03:10] Chetan Soni: I'm 18. Wow!

[00:03:12] Christie Robertson: You're an adult. 

[00:03:14] Jane Tunks Demel: So what would you say are some of the most pressing challenges facing young people today?

[00:03:22] Chetan Soni: Yeah, wow, that's a really great question. A couple things. One, for my peers, the biggest thing that I have seen is the rise in gun violence among kids and teens. Now gun violence is the leading cause of death for children and teens across the U.S. 

School shootings, while they don't happen often, are very traumatic when they happen.

I'm more concerned, and I think my peers are also more concerned, about youth suicide, especially by firearms. 

[00:03:55] Chetan Soni: Firearms are, I believe it's 90 percent more likely to cause a fatal outcome, as opposed to any other device. And so that's the number-one thing that I think my peers are focused on right now.

As well as the world issues going on. And the current state of affairs, as well as the climate crisis, really there's a lot of things. And I think to tie it back locally, mental health support has been something that my peers have been really strong in advocating for all across Washington State. And that work is just getting started.

So, those are the types of things that my peers and I are focused on.

[00:04:32] Christie Robertson: One of the things that I've learned from listening specifically to youth was the different feel that the climate crisis has for younger people. Those of us who heard about it for a long time, was hard to picture it and then saw it start to happen. But for youth, It seems to be just much more felt emotionally, the weight of that, that they're coming into. Is that your experience? 

[00:05:01] Chetan Soni: Absolutely. Yeah, 100% 

[00:05:03] Christie Robertson: In terms of gun violence, do you see it more as mental health causing an increase in gun violence or vice versa?

[00:05:12] Chetan Soni: Yeah, I think it's mental health challenges among kids and teens. Especially from the Covid pandemic, but really also before then. Covid just exacerbated the mental health crisis that existed beforehand. And now, we have to reckon with that. And guns have been the primary outlet of youth suicide, unfortunately, because of the lack of safe storage and education among parents and adults around them.

And because of that now the issues have unfortunately become really interlinked. 

[00:05:42] Christie Robertson: Yeah, and what do you think are the best strategies for combating gun violence among youth?

[00:05:49] Chetan Soni: The best strategies for me are educating parents and adults around kids if they have a firearm, how to safely store it, to know the dangers around the firearm. A firearm is, yes, it's a right, and it's also a responsibility, and you carry a really heavy weight by having a firearm, especially around kids and that should not be taken lightly.

It really needs to be a responsibility of the parent and of the adult to safely store. And that is a big thing that I have been pushing personally. Too many youth my age have had negative experiences with guns. And it's time to stop that. And it's also time that folks are educated about these issues. 

And I will say, the gun violence prevention policies that we have in Washington State are really strong. Over the past couple of years, we have seen really, really big improvements in that. In part to the advocacy and lobbying that gun violence prevention and youth organizations have done.

[00:06:49] Christie Robertson: Yeah. Tell us about some of those wins, Chetan.

[00:06:52] Chetan Soni: So, the assault weapons ban in Washington State, that's a big one. They have a bill out that requires school districts to send home information about safe storage that's being implemented as we speak. There is another bill that passed last year, which requires waiting periods and training requirements for folks and that has really helped save lives. And we're seeing that already in Washington State, how that's helping save lives. And in other places as well that have adopted these strong and stricter regulations on guns, but that still balance the Second Amendment with it. 

And that's been proven in court. I will say all of our bills have been upheld, in the Washington State courts. All of our initiatives, from 1639 to the other one down in Oregon as well that passed last year, have been held up in court and I don't think that's going to go away anytime soon.

And lower courts around the country, gun violence prevention policies that save lives are being upheld.

[00:07:54] Christie Robertson: Awesome. And Chetan, back to your life as a student who's also taking on these leadership roles and engaging in so much activism. How do you balance all of this with school and self-care? 

[00:08:10] Chetan Soni: Yeah, that's a really great question. I am truly a proponent of It Takes a Village. Especially when it comes to youth activism. I could not have done what I have done without having the immense privilege of having people around me. Whether that be co-workers, consultants, family members, friends that understand the things that I'm trying to do and that are supportive of that. And they've really helped make sure that I've had all the resources I need. And I'm really lucky and privileged to be in that place of having that village around me, and it's helped me with my self-care as well. I'm a very extroverted person, so going out with friends or with other folks really recharges my battery. And so having that support system has really helped me.

[00:08:59] Christie Robertson: Can you just do a quick rundown about what you're involved in right now.

[00:09:04] Chetan Soni: Sure, absolutely, so currently the board president of the Washington Youth Alliance. I am a member of the Superintendent's Student Advisory Board in Seattle Public Schools. I am the current operations coordinator for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, although I'm transitioning out. And I'm the incoming political action manager for the Children's Campaign Fund.

I'm also a student at Seattle Central College, if that counts for anything. Um, And yeah, I'm pretty involved in other type of organizations as well either helping volunteer or raising money for folks or other types of engagements there.

[00:09:43] Jane Tunks Demel: Now, Chetan, you said the Superintendent Student Advisory Committee? I didn't even know that existed.

[00:09:50] Chetan Soni: Yes, it does! 

[00:09:51] Jane Tunks Demel: Can you tell us about it?

[00:09:52] Chetan Soni: Absolutely. So the Seattle Public Schools District nominates about 12 to 24 students each year from all across the district to serve on the Superintendent Student Advisory Board. Usually, we meet 4 to 5 times a year. And it is a platform in which youth can go in and say, “Hey this is a concern that I have,” and kind of come up with ideas on how to alleviate those problems. 

It's an official Seattle Public Schools body, meets with the Superintendent, meets the district officials, and goes over things. 

Last year was my personal favorite year of being in the program. We actually got to go down and tour the lunch facilities in the Seattle Public Schools headquarters and got to look about what the chefs were doing and their plan for creating sustainable and equitable food that represents the diverse bodies of Seattle Public Schools. And I thought that was really cool.

[00:10:49] Jane Tunks Demel: And do you feel like you were able to effect any change through that role?

[00:10:54] Chetan Soni: Yes and no. I feel like it's great to have youth representation inform decisions. I don't know if we've made any real policy change as far as the district goes. They actually, unfortunately did not give us any time to think about what the district's budget would look like. Or give any feedback on that, which I thought was a missed opportunity to get more youth engagement in the budgeting process. Especially as they're proposing to cut essential services or really needed services for youth, like ethnic studies and other types of classes and programs. But I think it's a good opportunity to get more youth involved in the Seattle Public Schools process.

[00:11:39] Christie Robertson: I wanted to ask you about being a youth activist and adults trying to involve youth activists. Do you find that sometimes people are not taking you seriously or that it's just performative or do you feel like usually it's pretty effective? I guess there's a lot of different orgs, so it could vary.

[00:12:01] Chetan Soni: Yeah, I think it truly depends on the context. I'm in a very lucky place where I have built a network for myself. And so people know me pretty well. And so when I offer feedback, it's usually taken seriously. But I know for other youth, it's not taken seriously. Even if we say the exact same things. 

And that's happened before, and it's really unfortunate. And I have to go back and be like, “Hey, I didn't say this, this youth said it. And we said the exact same thing to you, and they are the ones that came up with the idea.” But suddenly I'm the one with the influence, right? And so it's been really interesting to experience that dynamic And having those conversations with folks, especially as someone who's actively aging out of the youth system. All to say, yeah, it really just depends on the organization.

[00:12:45] Christie Robertson: And it's only in the last couple of years that the Seattle School Board has added Student Board Directors. 

[00:12:53] Jane Tunks Demel: Christie and I love listening to Aayush and Luna. 

[00:12:56] Christie Robertson: And Lola!

[00:12:57] Jane Tunks Demel: Yeah, when they're speaking on the dais during school board meetings, the things that they say, it's refreshing. I'm like, yes, yes to everything. I think youth maybe, you know, the moral compass is so strong. And that you know what it's like as a student.

[00:13:14] Chetan Soni: Absolutely, and for context, Aayush was a part of the Superintendent Student Advisory Board and transitioned over to be a student school board member. And members of the Superintendent Student Advisory Board got to be on the Student School Board Selection Committee with the NAACP Youth Council. So we ended up actually picking Luna and Aayush to be on the board, giving our recommendations to the board of directors. And so, we knew coming in that Luna and Aayush would really have a strong advocacy perspective and a much needed perspective on behalf of students across the district. S

[00:13:44] Jane Tunks Demel: Yeah. You guys made great selections 

[00:13:46] Christie Robertson: Yes, I think they speak bravely. but sometimes it also seems like they don't get taken as seriously.

I'm curious about your thoughts on the complications around when students are minors, do you think that they should be voting members? How should organizations be treating students differently than adult voices, or should they be more similar?

[00:14:11] Chetan Soni: Yeah, I think it's a really great point. I will say I definitely believe in student school board members voting on school boards. I was a really big advocate of that to the district. Unfortunately, it's not a decision that the district can make. It has to be a ballot initiative by the people. And it's something I don't think the org — there’s no really organizational lift there for that, unfortunately, at this moment. Not to say that can't change, but just for now. 

I'm also a proponent of giving youth the right to vote in their school board elections. In New Jersey, they just had a decision that 16-year-olds can vote in their school board elections. I thought that was really cool. I'm really curious to see the results of that. And if it works, I mean, I think Seattle would be a great place number two for that.

[00:14:56] Christie Robertson: That is brilliant. I never heard of that.

[00:14:59] Jane Tunks Demel: I lived in Berkeley, California. And they had an initiative like that too that did pass.

[00:15:05] Christie Robertson: I guess voting is one of the ways to make people pay more attention and listen. When I ask youth questions, I often find that what they tell me is not what I was expecting to hear. So I think asking youth is one thing, but stopping and listening for the answer, even if it's not what you thought it was going to be, is the second part that can sometimes get left out.

[00:15:30] Jane Tunks Demel: And Chetan, Christie and I went to the luncheon for the Washington Youth Alliance. And we noticed that you did such an amazing job connecting with youth all over the state, from all sorts of different backgrounds. And so how do you do that? How do you connect with and amplify these diverse student advocates?

[00:15:51] Chetan Soni: That's a very good question. I think it's a number of things. One by just like personal connections I've had really great relationships with folks in school districts for a really long time. And you know, other student leaders. So I came in contact with folks on that panel from both the Association of Washington Student Leaders and the State Board of Education and their youth body.

And so, they're organizations that are very connected to myself and I put out a call, I said, hey, are there any youth that are interested in putting on this panel with me? I think it'd be really engaging and cool. People were like, yes, absolutely. 

And then secondly, you know, with Eastern Washington students and youth, it is really hard to get them over here because of the transportation issues. They might need a hotel or they might need another stipend or whatever to spend their time traveling and speaking and doing all this stuff. And so at that event, we actually, we paid for hotels, flights. We provided everyone with a $100 stipend, so all the youth that you were seeing — whether they were ushering, checking people in, or on the panel — they were getting paid a stipend for their work. Because I believe that's really important: compensating youth for their time because it's just as valuable, if not more, than some adults because they're in school and they have jobs and they have extracurriculars and they're spending their weekend with us at this event. And so, I super-believe in that. 

We have now a system where we recruit folks from all across the state in order to be part of our chapter teams. And our chapter teams at Washington Youth Alliance are really engaged in the work that we do.

We just had a really successful Youth Lobby Day where there were 80 kids and I believe 30 or 40 were from Eastern Washington, which is really, really cool. And they were fighting for gun violence prevention and youth mental health. And they came out and spent 15 hours that day with us because of the bus ride and all the other things.

[00:17:44] Jane Tunks Demel: That's amazing. That's something that adults can learn from. I know that a lot of adult educational advocates are having a really difficult time connecting with other advocates east of the Cascades.

[00:17:57] Christie Robertson: I think the stipend is also so important for making sure that you have a diversity of voices because, sure, there's some people who can do that stuff for free or their parents will sponsor their trip over or whatever, but yeah, I think it's key.

And I also really want to make sure that people get from this podcast that Chetan is an amazing person, but not the only student advocate who is passionate and and speaks much more elegantly than I'm speaking to their causes. It's really great to see. 

I want to make sure that we give you time to talk about the Washington Youth Alliance and their work and any ways that people can potentially help the organization.

[00:18:44] Chetan Soni: Absolutely, thank you so much for this. Yeah. So right now, Washington Youth Alliance, founded the middle of last year, has really been focused on capacity building at the moment. It was just me for a while. And now we've gotten to a point where we've got a part-time staff member, we have another one coming on, we have a great team of interns, and we're trying to build out long-term infrastructure for this organizing, and hosting it in a place that is equitable and actually representative of the youth community.

And what that looks like in our structure is half youth and half adults. And we define youth as anyone under the age of 24, so 24 or under, with a third of those being under 18. And these are on our official board of directors. And so folks from chapters in their cities or communities can actually be nominated to the board to serve a two-year term. And once they're done with that two-year term, they can choose to move on, renew, or if they've aged out, they can become one of our adult board members, which are age 25 and over, who really provide mentorship to the youth that are interested in creating change in their community.

And we really treat the opportunity to be on the board like an official board experience. So people learn what governance is. They learn how to manage a budget. They learn how to work with our accountants in order to manage that budget. They also learn DEIA practices with racial equity. They’re really learning all of these essential functions if they wanna be in the nonprofit or political space as well.

And as far as what folks can do other than donating, which is important, go to our website, Aside from donating, it's getting their kids involved. And if you are a youth, getting involved into our organization but really also just having those conversations at home about safe [gun] storage, about youth mental health, and pushing their legislators to act on certain critical policies like more youth mental health support and gun violence prevention. 

This year is a short legislative session, which means, yikes, unfortunately for some of our really cool bills like universal lunch for kids and the Office of Youth Mental Health that we're advocating for, which unfortunately didn't make it through.

But we're hoping to come back even stronger in the 2025 session because it is a longer session, which means legislators have more time to really consider these bills that are progressive and really on the forefront of change.

[00:21:08] Christie Robertson: If there were a youth listening or somebody who has a kid who maybe wants to get involved in the Washington Youth Alliance, what would they do?

[00:21:17] Chetan Soni: Go to our website at and sign up for other volunteer opportunities. We have a little contact form. And we will be in touch about how you can get involved.

[00:21:26] Christie Robertson: That's great. 

[00:21:27] Jane Tunks Demel: Are there any other priorities or initiatives that the Washington Youth Alliance is going to be working on in the next year or two?

[00:21:35] Chetan Soni: Absolutely. Yes. So our biggest two things this year: (1) we want to really hone in and focus on the folks that we have in Eastern Washington, making sure that their networks are built up, making sure that their city councils and their school boards are providing them with mental health access, with ethnic studies, and with comprehensive curriculum, especially in the face of budget cuts, and making sure that they're budget-cutting equitably.

And I think the biggest thing for us — especially in our kind of cohort — is also making sure that we provide comprehensive mental health services to kids through that direct service lens. And so we'll be working with Eastern Washington folks in order to, hopefully by the end of the year, open one to two mental health clinics to provide that comprehensive mental health access and services in order to make sure that youth are feeling supported in their community, and also having it be more of a community center as well. And that's one of the really big things that we're focusing on. 

And then also focusing on college and career readiness. That's a big thing that youth are really looking toward. They're saying, "Hey, I'm gonna graduate from high school. I have no idea what I want to do. I have no idea where I want to go to college. I don't know how to apply for FAFSA.”

[00:22:49] Christie Robertson: FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

[00:22:54] Chetan Soni: “I don't know my CSS profile in College Board.” 

[00:22:57] Christie Robertson: The CSS profile and College Board is another way to connect to financial aid for college.

[00:23:05] Chetan Soni: I have no idea how any of this works and too often folks that are low-income, BIPOC, don't have the resources to seek a college counselor for thousands of dollars.

And so how can we really help make sure that those types of goals are elevated for youth that want to go to college, or that want to go to a trade school, or that want to start their own business. So partnering with members of the community, with college counselors, with business owners in order to give career and college opportunities to folks all across the state.

[00:23:35] Christie Robertson: Isn't there something called the High School and Beyond Plan that's supposed to help students plan for after. I know about it in special education and it's, it's a joke there, but don't know what it's like otherwise.

[00:23:53] Chetan Soni: Yeah, it's also not good. It's also not good. It unfortunately doesn't take into account the real-life applications. It's very theoretical in its context, which can be good, but unfortunately in this situation it is not, and it is not helpful. 

It also really depends on the implementation of each school district. So working with school boards and making sure that it's being properly implemented is a really big deal. Because once you pass these policies, that's really great, but really when it comes down to it, the implementation is what matters.

[00:24:21] Jane Tunks Demel: And, Chetan, we've heard anecdotally from people we know, actually that some students, they might be getting As in their IB classes, but then when they get to college, they're ending up having to take remedial courses ? And so I'm just wondering from just your experience, all the other youth that you know, is that something that is happening? 

[00:24:42] Chetan Soni: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the reality of the situation is that high school no longer prepares you for college. And really what we need to be going down and back to is those soft skills. Soft skills like how to communicate effectively with folks, how to make sure your actions and your words are aligned, how to make sure that across the board, in every part of your life, that you are effectively able to prioritize things.

How do we make sure that people are learning life skills in high school without it really being a class? How do we teach life skills in every single curriculum, in every single aspect of life? And what I've really seen that work in is something called PBL, project-based learning, has really helped me, and I know it's helped a lot of my peers. 

It's not really available in AP [Advanced Placement] or IB [International Baccalaureate] classes because of the intense curriculum and the strict curriculum that teachers have to follow. But it's really, really helped folks in every aspect of life being able to communicate effectively and do all the things they need to do, prioritize and things like that.

[00:25:49] Christie Robertson: Some of the real basics that I am seeing and seeing in the data is just like showing up for school and turning in work, mostly since the pandemic.

[00:26:03] Chetan Soni: I'm happy to talk about why people may be doing that, if that might help. 

[00:26:07] Christie Robertson: Please.

[00:26:08] Chetan Soni: Okay, cool. Yeah, I think really when it comes down to it, it's not about youth not wanting to do the work, it's about them being too scared to come into school because they're afraid they're going to be shot. And it's about, as far as absences, it's about why get out of bed in the morning when the climate crisis is looming? Why get out of bed in the morning when I have all of these crippling anxieties about everything in my life? And that causes grades to slip, it causes distrust in your own community. 

And what has really helped me and also other people, I think, has been the intervention aspect from a trusted friend or adult around you. And I think that's super, super helpful. 

But also realizing that school is not the same as it was before the pandemic. And that now people are, especially high schoolers, are learning that maybe they don't work best in a type of environment that is like 9 to 3. I'm straight out of the desk. And sometimes, maybe an online learning option may be for them. Or maybe a more rigorous, college aspect may be good for them. So Running Start like other programs. 

But in order to have those programs, they need to be fully funded. So unfortunately, Seattle Public Schools last year and this year have been cutting Running Start counselors.

And counselors in Seattle Public Schools are no longer being paid to have their Running Start students. It's not in their ratios anymore. And they're actually encouraging people not to take Running Start courses anymore because of that.

Which is really unfortunate because I know for a lot of people, myself included, Running Start really has helped me. And helped me with my really crazy work life and volunteer life. So I can do the things that I enjoy while still getting the education that I deserve.

[00:27:54] Christie Robertson: Right, and I think in either case of whether you're having difficulty coming to school because of anxiety or you need to establish a different structure, the key is always to work with the student collaboratively and moving away from a punitive approach.

[00:28:15] Chetan Soni: I'd like to really quickly touch on that. Three years ago, I got to advocate with a group called the Emerald Youth Organizing Collective in order to advocate for the removal of the Becca law.

And the Becca law, for those of you who don't know... Unfortunately in Eastern Washington a girl named Becca was walking home from school when she shouldn't have been — she should have been in class — and she was killed. And back in the ’90s, this was a really big deal because this was like bringing it to the forefront of like student absentee and truancy within our education system.

And parents were worried, rightfully so, and they moved to a more punitive approach instating the Becca law, which states that if you're gone five days in a row you'll be going to court. And if you are not in court, your parents will be jailed and fined for every day that you were not in school.

That was a really punitive approach. It has since been amended to a way, way, way, way, way lesser nature. But it is still there, and it's still causing the structural inequity, especially in Yakima and Wenatchee. Those school districts have really been enforcing that law for decades and it has had really bad outcomes on students.

[00:29:25] Christie Robertson: And it looks like that bill was passed in 1995. So 29 years ago. And is still having such a strong impact today in some parts of our state. 

Before we conclude, I want to ask you about your new project at the Children's Campaign Fund. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

[00:29:49] Chetan Soni: Absolutely, yes. So I'm very excited to start as a political action manager for the Children's Campaign Fund, which is primarily focused on early youth learning and education, so free child care for folks. And it is a unique structure in which it is a 501(c)(4) and a PAC. It is the longest-standing PAC in Washington State history to advance child care issues.

And I'm very excited to start. I will be working the legislature with community stakeholders and youth, in order to advance priorities, and also in the sphere of the electoral season. So doing their endorsements and things like that.

[00:30:23] Jane Tunks Demel: And what kind of issues are they advocating for right now?

[00:30:26] Chetan Soni: Primarily their free child care bill, as well as more youth mental health supports. And then a specific project they're working with the Association of Washington Businesses called the LEAP Project, which educates folks all across the state in a bus about child care access and making sure that it's accessible to folks, especially low income and BIPOC communities.

[00:30:46] Jane Tunks Demel: Cool, that sounds awesome.

[00:30:47] Christie Robertson: Can't wait to follow more of your work.

[00:30:50] Jane Tunks Demel: Oh, and Chetan, after this year, are you going to stay in Seattle? Are you going to keep going to Seattle Central College or do you know yet?

[00:30:59] Chetan Soni: So I will graduate with my associate's degree in June, and I will be transferring to the University of Washington. And I am very excited and it is yet to be determined if that University of Washington will be Bothell or Seattle, but we are here. And I will be at either one of them and I am very excited to continue the next stage of life here in Washington.

I love it here. The forests are so pretty. I'm a hiker now. I ski a little bit. So I'm fully adopted into the PNW type of atmosphere, and I'm very excited to continue here.

[00:31:31] Jane Tunks Demel: That sounds amazing. 

[00:31:33] Christie Robertson: Yeah, I think the skiing, that's when you're done converting.

It's been really great talking to you. Thank you so much for meeting with us. I think this is going to be really valuable for people to hear.

[00:31:45] Chetan Soni: Of course, and thank you all so much for having me.

[00:31:47] Chetan Soni: And definitely will keep you in touch.

[00:31:50] Christie Robertson: You can learn more about the Washington Youth Alliance at …

[00:31:53] Chetan Soni:

[00:31:55] Christie Robertson: You can give them monetary support, you can see what kind of projects they're doing, get your youth involved.

[00:32:05] Jane Tunks Demel: And that concludes this episode. You can find our show notes at and contact us at I'm Jane Tunks Demel.

[00:32:15] Christie Robertson: And I'm Christie Robertson. Join us next time on Seattle Hall Pass.