Student voices raising hope for a brighter future
Though February, known as Black History Month, has come to an end, we continue recognizing the brutal past of minority groups in the United States. At the same time, we hold hope for their future in this country. With optimism for societal change, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) continues to advocate for fostering diversity and equity in Washington's system.
To create state policy that promotes these values, SBCTC's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee creates safe spaces within the agency to discuss issues minorities face. On Feb. 28, colleagues from different departments met for an enlightening session regarding implicit bias. Through surrounding messages ingrained within, people develop a stereotypical perspective that influences how we view and treat each other. Courageous SBCTC staff members shared stories of discrimination and unfairness they personally faced, as well as hope in changing the system.
Along with diversity work within the SBCTC, I planned an event in honor of Black History Month at Tacoma Community College. Over 80 students joined the showing of a film about civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis. Connecting the history of black people to prevalent societal barriers, several students felt compelled to become more active with the state legislature.
To express student voice in promoting equitable practices, students are joining Washington Student Engagement Network (WA-SEN) all-expense-paid advocacy day from March 24-25 to encourage fully funding the Washington State Need Grant. 20,000 students in our own communities, who want to achieve greatness by pursuing a post-secondary education, aren't able to due to lack of funding for a grant they qualify for. My colleagues and I are working towards recruiting community college students in joining the movement to change this.
In support of accessibility to academic success, my co-intern, Mustapha Samateh, and I continue monitoring the Washington Community and Technical College Student Association's legislative agenda:
- HB 1123, HB 1340 and SB 5393, all which will fully fund the State Need Grant by establishing the Washington College Promise, are in the Appropriations and Ways and Means Committee
- HB 1702, which will specify courses offering low-cost/no-cost material when students register for classes, will be reviewed by the Rules Committee.
- HB 1041, which will modify the process for obtaining certificates of discharge, will be heard by the Rules Committee.
- HB 1893, which will expand community and technical college emergency funds and allow students to utilize EBT cards on campus, will be reviewed by the Appropriations Committee.
To keep different student populations updated on our legislative work, I was interviewed by Nic Reed, a student from Bates Technical College, for his campus news broadcast. I shared information regarding the SBCTC’s work, emphasizing effort around food and housing insecurity. Through this outlet, we not only ensure students that they are advocated for, but also educate them about opportunities to engage in advocacy.
Though our country's history is dark, working with the SBCTC raises hope for a brighter future. By educating people about the past, raising awareness of current barriers, and including minority voices in the fight for the future, change within our society's system will arise. This is a fight that will continue, regardless of the month of the year.