ALAMEDA (KPIX) — The high cost of housing is a problem across the Bay Area, but in Alameda, city leaders have been getting an earful about the issue from two 13-year old sisters who are not afraid to speak up.
Frida and Katya Cassidy-Schiesser feel right at home at Wood Middle School in Alameda, or with their friends on Girl Scout camping trips. But it turns out the twins are pretty comfortable other places as well.
Earlier this year, Frida wrote and delivered a speech to the City Council about the need for rent control in the city.
“Over the past year, some Girl Scout meetings have had to turn into Girl Scout going away parties. The main cause of this is lack of rent control,” she told the Council.
“I was super nervous before,” Frida told KPIX 5. “But then when I was in the middle of doing it, I guess I was, like, in the zone. Like, I got it. I was more confident.”
Frida and Katya became activists after half their Girl Scout troop had to move away because of rent increases. So now, whenever the topic is addressed, they summon up the courage to look the adults in the eye and say they’re tired of it happening.
“I think involving kids is actually very important,” said Katya. “So they can actually know what’s going on and they can affect change. Because if politicians don’t want to listen to adults, they can listen to kids.”
The girls’ parents have always been politically active, but they love the refreshingly simple approach the kids take to what grown-ups think is such a complicated problem.
“I think adults are very worried about the different power groups, who is going to be impacted. But with kids, it’s like, people need a place to live. It should be a basic right,” explained the girl’s mom, Jenya Cassidy.
Wood Middle School’s principal Cammie Harris says kids secretly worry a lot about the problems they see in the media like homelessness and gentrification. She said one recent writing assignment asked students, if they had a piece of land, what would they choose to do with it?
Most of the kids said they would build a homeless shelter.
“I stress the fact to my educators, not just to let kids know about these world problems, but let them know that they can make a difference, make an impact,” said Harris. “And I think that helps alleviate the stress.”
Steve Schiesser, the girls’ father, says his daughters’ willingness to work for change should send a message to us all.
“If some 13-year-olds can speak up at a city council meeting, then you think to yourself, ‘Boy, a lot of people could speak up.’ You know, it should be easier. It should be easier,” said Schiesser.
The girls say as long as high rents are forcing people out of Alameda, they will continue to speak out on the subject. That probably comes as no surprise to those working at City Hall.