Working for a greater purpose
Opening old boxes containing trophies from my high school speech and debate career, I couldn’t help but chuckle at my past naivety. Though at the time I relentlessly pursued earning these pieces of plastic and metal, the material pointlessly sits deep in my closet today. However, the speaking and critical thinking skills I developed in that journey are what allows me to pursue my advocacy passion. The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges recognizes that the true purpose behind legislative advocacy does not lie in boosting our egos with accomplishments, but in changing student lives. I use my speaking and critical thinking skills every day in my internship with the State Board.
To remind faculty of their purpose and further encourage their work, I collaborated with Tacoma Community College’s (TCC) Open Educational Resource (OER) team to host a thank-you letter writing campaign on campus. Taking place during National OER Week, we collected over 150 letters from students thanking teachers for implementing low-cost and no-cost course material in their classroom. As TCC leads the nation in utilizing OER, we thank faculty, staff and administrators who dedicate their time to help students save millions of dollars on textbook costs. In coordination with SBCTC’s Policy Associate Boyoung Chae, we are expanding this campaign statewide.
Further supporting OER, I testified before the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee in support of HB 1702, which would specify classes offering low-cost course material when students register for classes. Joining Boyoung Chae and TCC’s eLearning Director Chris Soran, we encouraged the Legislature to understand that students have the right to be informed of opportunities to save money on textbook costs, especially when we are already burdened with high costs of tuition.
Along with OER support, my co-intern, Mustapha Samateh, and I are tracking the legislative agenda of Washington’s Community and Technical College Student Association. I was interviewed by student Nic Reed for Bates Technical College’s news broadcast and provided an update of our legislative work:
- SB 5393, which would fully fund the Washington College Promise, passed the Senate floor and is currently scheduled for a hearing in the House College and Workforce Development Committee on March 19.
- HB 1041, which would modify the process for obtaining certificates of discharge, has passed the House floor and is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Law and Justice Committee on March 21.
- HB 1893, which addresses campus food insecurity, passed the House floor and is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on March 19.
Encouraging students to join the advocacy effort, Mustapha and I are reaching out to Washington’s community and technical college system to promote the Washington Student Engagement Network’s Advocacy Day. Students across Washington state will meet with legislators to discuss college affordability on March 24 and 25.
Mustapha and I will also be leading a leadership session preparing participants for the process. Oftentimes, students are simply unaware of their power to make a difference. We are working together to change that!
Especially with finals week approaching, the chaos of juggling many responsibilities can feel overwhelming at times. However, we are motivated to continue legislative advocacy by pursuing purpose and positively impacting students across Washington state. Together, we engage in influential work that simultaneously helps us grow as individuals and community members, qualities that are far more valuable than any trophy.