Talking with A college freshman with fresh ideas

Name: Mia Shackelford
Age: 18
City: San Francisco
Who: College student, past chair of S.F. Youth Commission


Mia Shackelford

J.: You were on the San Francisco Youth Commission for two years before you started college last fall. Can you explain what that is?

Mia Shackelford: The youth commission is a group of 17 young people from all over the city [representing different communities], and they advise the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the mayor about youth issues. I was interning in a supervisor’s office [Scott Wiener], and he let me know about the opportunity and set up an interview with [Mayor Ed Lee]. It was really interesting because I didn’t know how city government worked before I was on the commission.

J.: What types of issues did you deal with?

MS: The first year I focused on unemployment, and the next year I was elected chairperson of the youth commission, which forced me to broaden my focus. I needed to know what everyone else was doing. It was a really big year for us with youth justice. We focused on things like whether juvenile probation officers should have guns when they are dealing with dangerous, but young, offenders.  It was great to see our voice as the youth commission being taken seriously. It was a really awesome experience.

J.: You were also a summer intern for State Sen. Leland Yee in 2012. Have you thought about a career in politics?

MS: I’ve thought about it a lot. I’m interested in politics and political movements. I found with my time on the youth commission that government is very slow and frustrating sometimes. Part of me thinks it might be easier to work in the nonprofit field. But there’s something to be said for working through government processes, even though they can be very arduous.

J.: Now you’re a freshman at Scripps, a women’s college in Southern California. How do you like it?

MS: Scripps is really great. It’s progressive and it focuses on social justice. It’s such a different environment than going to high school in San Francisco. Lowell was much bigger. It was a place where you had to fight a little bit to have your voice heard. Scripps is private and small and there’s a lot of coddling. In a nice way. (Laughs) You feel very cared for.

J.: Can you tell me about your Teen Art Connect internship at the Contemporary Jewish Museum last summer?

MS: It ended up being an incredible experience. There were about 15 of us and we bonded as a team. We did tours of the CJM’s architecture and of the galleries. The job was also part apprenticeship; each of us got to shadow a particular department at the museum. I saw how the marketing department worked and felt I learned a lot.

J.: It sounds like you are pretty connected to Jewish life.

MS: I’m half-Jewish. My dad was raised as a liberal Christian. I don’t know what a Jewish identity means to me. But I always feel sad when I haven’t done anything Jewish in a long time. I grew up going to Or Shalom [Jewish Community] in the Sunset District, and  I go to services at Hillel sometimes. The people at Hillel are super nice, but I’m used to super liberal Judaism: lots of singing, lots of guitar and alternative drumming. Hillel has a Conservative service and they have a Reform service. It’s a little more dry than I’m used to.

J.: Did you enjoy growing up in San Francisco?

MS: I think it’s hard to dislike San Francisco.  I’m from the Sunset. It’s amazing. I love the Outer Sunset. Sort of the hippie district by the beach. I love the Java Beach Café. It’s a little more relaxed than downtown. But I’m used to Market Street because of my time working. [Downtown] is a mixture of the best parts of San Francisco and all the vibrant parts; it’s a mixed bag in an aesthetic way, but also in a serious economic way. There’s a huge wealth disparity, and that’s uncomfortable.

J.: Was it hard adjusting to Southern California?

MS: I like it more than I thought I would. Being from Northern California forces you to hate on L.A. (Laughs) I probably wear more makeup down here because that’s what people do.

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