Joey Freeman ’09: How Lessons from Milken Helped Inspire a Career in Politics

As Joey Freeman ’09 strolls the corridors of power in California’s statehouse, he carries with him the lessons he absorbed during his middle and high school years at Milken. Joey, the chief deputy legislative affairs secretary to Governor Gavin Newsom, says Milken helped influence his decision to pursue a career in government and public policy. “Whether the issue was healthcare, immigrants’ rights or the environment, Milken made sure the Jewish values we learned manifested themselves in a commitment to social justice,” he says. “Those values still serve as guideposts that help inform the decisions I make in my professional life every day.”

Joey joined then-Lieutenant Governor Newsom in 2014, ultimately serving as his chief policy consultant focused on higher education, then taking on the role of policy director during Newsom’s successful 2018 gubernatorial campaign. In his current position, he works to advance the governor’s agenda in the legislature, collaborating with lawmakers on their bills and advising Newsom about how to act when those bills hit his desk.

“My early experiences in government go back to Milken, where I was president of the ninth grade class,” Joey says. “For each summer of high school, I interned for a member of the Los Angeles City Council. And I was president of the L.A. Youth Council, which allowed young people to meet with elected officials and make policy recommendations to the City Council. We created a chapter at Milken and at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights and developed a sister relationship between the two schools.”

In addition to providing him opportunities to cut his teeth in public service, Milken shaped Joey in other critical ways. He was part of the first class of students to participate in the Tiferet Israel Fellowship, a semester abroad program for Milken 10th graders. “I’d never been to Israel before, and it was a powerful trip,” he recalls. “Having Israel as our classroom was really incredible. As we studied the entirety of Jewish history, we would visit the sites where events actually occurred. It’s rare in high school to find immersive learning of that kind.”

After graduating from Milken, Joey went on to UC Berkeley, eventually running in and winning an election for student body vice president. He also became deeply involved in the campus Jewish community and still sits on the Berkeley Hillel board. “Reflecting back, I think there was a direct connection between my Tiferet experience and my ability to help ensure Jewish students felt safe on Berkeley’s campus,” Joey muses. “Having had the privilege of living in Israel for four months breathed life into my Jewish identity and made me a more effective advocate.”

Strengthening his ties to Judaism was one major part of Joey’s Milken experience; enabling him to build a cohesive and lasting community of support was another. “By and large, my best friends are all from Milken. We grew up together and share similar values, and we’re always there for each other in times of need,” he says.

In Joey’s view, Milken was the perfect place to mature into young adulthood. “There were elements of Milken that made it feel like Jewish summer camp – but one fused to a very college-prep-rigorous curriculum,” he says. “It was an amazing atmosphere, and I feel fortunate to have been a part of it.”

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