Butler Launches Youth Advisory Council, Elevates Voices Of Young Californians To The U.S. Senate

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) launched her Youth Advisory Council (Council), keeping her promise to fight for the next generation and empower young people to participate in their democracy. The Council will be comprised of more than 30 young people (ages 16-28) from California who will meet regularly with the Senator and have the opportunity to lend their voice on key issues – from climate change, to mental health, to economic mobility and more. The Council will also serve as a sounding board for the Senator and her policy team on potential legislation.

“Engaging California’s young people is the centerpiece of my service,” said Senator Butler. “I am proud to start this Council so that I can work with leaders from California and hear their unique perspectives on the legislation we are working on in Washington D.C. It is essential that we inspire and involve them for the sake of a thriving democracy.”

Senator Butler pushed to ensure the Council reflects the diversity of California and the variety of lived experiences in the state. The Council is made up of young people from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno, San Diego, and Bakersfield, with perspectives involving students and those with non-traditional academic backgrounds. Senator Butler plans to consult with her Council ahead of pivotal hearings and legislative negotiations.

Since taking office, Senator Butler has worked to champion the next generation of Californians. At the start of this year, Butler held youth roundtables across California to talk about issues such as youth mental health, economic opportunity, and democracy. To build off this momentum, Butler partnered with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation to discuss how to create solutions to the growing mental health crisis among young people, particularly people who identify as LGBTQ+ and who lack the traditional resources and tools to seek help.

Back in D.C., Butler introduced new legislation, the Pride In Mental Health Act, which would strengthen mental health and crisis intervention resources for at-risk LGBTQ+ youth. Senator Butler also signed onto the Youth Voting Rights Act which would allow people to pre-register to vote at sixteen, and the Protect Vulnerable Immigrant Youth Act, which would strengthen protections for children at the border.


Bios for several members of Senator Butler’s Youth Advisory Council are below. This list is not reflective of the full Council.


Jesus “Paco” Estrada

Jesus “Paco” Estrada is a first-generation Mexican-American born and raised in South Central LA pursuing degrees in Theology & Spanish from Loyola Marymount University. Currently, Paco is a West Region Fellow at Young Invincibles, a national young adult advocacy organization, and serves on a South Central task force with LA County’s Department of Youth Development to create networks of support and care. In 2022, he was selected as one of 12 students from 38 different countries to address Pope Francis directly in a global migration justice initiative. Paco remains dedicated to fighting for marginalized communities and organizing young people to unlock the beauty of their power and wisdom to bring about change.


Ashmita Annamalai

Ashmita Annamalai is a mental health and suicide prevention advocate, channeling her efforts into various initiatives, including the San Diego County Office of Education, the California Department of Education, and Mental Health America, as a leader, speaker, writer, and journalist. She wields the power of her vulnerability and lived experience to advocate for systemic change in youth behavioral health and policy. She is currently a high school senior at Canyon Crest Academy and hopes to study neuroscience at university this fall.


Sam Cozolino

Sam Cozolino is a junior who has been active with his student newspaper and has produced articles on a diverse range of topics with a political angle. Beginning in the 2022 Elections, Sam has canvassed the Western Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Culver City, and the San Fernando Valley. His early crowning achievement was volunteering for now-Councilmember Jesse Zwick. Afterwards, Sam became involved in the Santa Monica Democratic Club, was the Vice Chair of the Political Action Committee, and is currently serving as the Vice President for Programs. He is also passionate about the freedom to read, so he took a course with PEN America during the Summer of 2023 for high schoolers which led him to work in fundraising and politics for the Golden State Readers. Sam is a Co-President of the Santa Monica Youth Leader Collective which has the objective of registering, pre-registering, and educating high school and Santa Monica College students in the Santa Monica area so that life-long voters are born.


Jessica Sanchez

Jessica Sanchez was born in Michoacan, Mexico. Before her first birthday she was sent to live in South Central Los Angeles. She is in the process of earning her high school diploma to eventually attend UCLA, where she plans to major in psychology. For the past six years she has worked in the Government Relations Department of Homeboy Industries and her role has been a Social Justice Advocate for the formerly incarcerated and the underserved minorities. Within this role she has been able to work on legislation and help pass bills like SB731, which will result in more than a million Californians being able to take advantage of employment, housing, and other key opportunities. Through her work she helps develop vital relationships with key political figures. She has managed voting flex centers and provided people with knowledge on how to research and find information on candidates and policies. She also led the way in developing and facilitating classes which educate people on how to advocate for themselves and their communities.


Matthew Quitoriano

Matthew Quitoriano is a first-generation American and a current high school student who serves on the San Diego Unified school board, representing nearly 100,000 students. On the board, he created the Student Advisory Board and the Department of Student Engagement, two groups that effectively engage and empower students to get involved in their communities.  He wrote (and passed) state legislation around student empowerment, working with Senator Glazer and Assemblymember Ward, and worked with US Senator Laphzona Butler with youth mental health. Matthew sits at a unique confluence of legislative ability, community organizing, and lived youth experience..


Sequoya Cante Waukazoo Nakai (Navajo/Lakota)

Sequoya Cante Waukazoo Nakai (Navajo/Lakota) was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is an honor roll high school student who received the President’s Award for Educational Excellence at ICA Cristo Rey Academy and a Letter of Commendation from Senator Butler. She has collaborated with various American Indian Organizations in and out of San Francisco. She is the granddaughter of Helen and Martin Waukazoo, two prominent figures and leaders known throughout the American Indian community for their transformative work and lifelong commitment to improving the lives of American Indian people. Their legacy organizations are the Friendship House Association of American Indians and the Native American Health Center. Ms. Nakai has been involved with both organizations since an early age. Sequoya is following in her grandparents’ footsteps and wants to continue helping her community. 






Stay Up To Date With Laphonza

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.