A handful of supporters followed 26-year-old Sokhom Mao into Oakland City Hall last Wednesday to watch the young advocate make history. With a stroke of a pen on the required registration forms, Mao became the first former foster youth to run for City Council in the city’s history.
“When I signed those papers, I thought about all of the families, youth, and residents living in the city and thought to myself we must do more to improve their lives,” Mao said. “I think the community is ready for a leader who will take ownership and responsibility of the actions and challenges we are face with. We are ready to take on the tough road ahead and work closely with the City Council and Mayor [Jean Quan] to continue to meet the needs of the residents.”
Mao is a member of the Citizens’ Police Review Board. He fought alongside a broad swathe of advocates in pushing for passage of Assembly Bill 12, a 2010 law that extended foster care in California until age 21.
Mao said that Oakland can benefit from his experience both as a former foster youth, and advocate.
“I think the people of Oakland has been waiting for someone who understands their concerns,” he said.
Now that Sokhom is in the running, working on how to engage youth and students with employment opportunities and higher education is one of his priorities.
“I would like to look at how can we develop new technology to connect with youth and engage their ideas in the decision making process,” he said. “I feel that often times their voice have been left out of the discussion. It is important that if we’re going to be proud of diversity then we need to always practice diversifying our ideas around all people and demographic.”
Mao is seeking the seat currently held by Council President Pat Kernighan, who will not seek re-election. At this time, there’s no one running against Mao.
Yanthy Yahya is Fostering Media Connection’s office manager.