Finding my voice, respecting others, speaking for students
Throughout my childhood, I was taught to respect my elders by speaking only when spoken to. However, by following this principle, I became self-conscious and quiet when interacting with those older than me. By exposing myself to professional environments since coming to Tacoma Community College (TCC) as a Running Start student, I learned that respect towards others should not be portrayed in the form of silence. Respecting others does not mean losing respect for yourself. This lesson developed strength in my voice, allowing me to help advocate for Washington’s 370,000 community and technical college students.
By utilizing our voices, my co-intern, Mustapha Samateh, and I testified before the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee in support of HB 1300. This bill will reinvest in the community and technical college system by fulfilling needs such as increasing faculty compensation, providing faculty cultural competency training, and implementing an office of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Further emphasizing the power of student voice, students across the state unified for the Washington Community and Technical College Student Association’s (WACTCSA) Advocacy Day on Jan. 24. Accompanied by TCC President Dr. Ivan Harrell and Director of Student Life Sonja Morgan, TCC’s student leaders and I joined 19 community and technical colleges to promote WACTCSA’s legislative agenda.
To keep WACTCSA updated on our legislative agenda, Mustapha and I presented a report to WACTCSA’s weekly legislative meeting about the following bills:
- HB 1041 will promote reintegration of the formerly incarcerated. The House Higher Education and Workforce Committee is currently amending this bill.
- HB 1702 will mandate ctcLink to specify which classes offer “low-cost” course material. “Low-cost” course material is defined as under $50, according to a 2017-19 statewide student lead survey with over 10,000 participants. This bill is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, February 5th, in which Mustapha and I will testify.
- HB 1340 and HB 1123 will fully fund the Washington State Need Grant by changing it to the Washington College Promise. Both bills were passed out of the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on Jan. 30.
Along with keeping our colleagues informed, Mustapha and I are also encouraging students to attend the Washington Student Engagement Network’s Advocacy Day from Feb. 10-11 to further encourage support for the Washington College Promise.
Funding the Washington College Promise is a priority for many, including the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC). After sharing our academic experience and prevalent educational barriers on the student panel during WSAC's meeting, Mustapha and I joined council members and staff to discuss WSAC's priorities for the next few years. Among the priorities stood advocating for the Washington College Promise and implementing equitable practices in the education system.
Whether testifying before the House, presenting reports to colleagues, or speaking to members of WSAC, all require an ability to express my voice. Through advocacy opportunities provided by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, the importance of doing so has become even more compelling. Change occurs when students recognize and respect the power of their voice.