Bringing the Student Voice to the Virtual Hill
As the first week of the 2021 legislative session concludes, it was an overwhelming and surreal experience to see the people who continue to fight for Washingtonians, its youth population, and the continuation of security in higher education funding. Through this week, the State Board has seen a large percent of house bills, ranging from House Bill 1004 for the expansion of student health care plan, to House Bill 1028 for the concerns of residency credentials for teacher certification. Everyone on the “virtual hill” has their hands full with different aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but are hard workers and in positive spirits to find solutions to problems facing the state.
Just three days into the new legislative session and the House Committee on State Government and Tribal Relations held a public hearing on House Bill 1016, which would make Juneteenth—June 19 —a legal state holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 the people of Galveston, Tex., finally learned the Civil War had ended and enslaved people had been freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
This was the first of many hearings for the committee. For me, it was my first testimony on behalf of my peers, community, and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. For others, with much more experience than I, had never attended a hearing on the hill virtually. With the new times we are in, the hearing went smoothly and efficiently with numerous testimonies in support of making Juneteenth a holiday. I testified not only because it was my duty, but because of an urgency for young people to continue to fight for what they believe in, to be heard, and never silenced. As I spoke to the committee members, I realized I was speaking for future generations and peers that rely on me to speak our truth and to be the representative for all students attending our 34 community and technical colleges.
Being a part of the State Board has brought me comfort and has eased my mind in these unknowing times due to the dedication and resilience of all staff members. As State Board staff lead by example, I aspire to do the same throughout my campus and community to finally bring some perspective to my campus, showing students the true state of politics away from the reality TV show we call the news. There is a need for the local government to provide the best opportunities to its citizens while also wanting to hear all perspectives of different issues.
Washington has been one of the top states when it comes to education and its innovative ways of problem solving. This week, these creative solutions were shown as conversations were held on the state of FAFSA, student loans, COVID-19 impacts and more. An example of this work is Senate Bill 5215, a bill that would increase the Washington College Grant award. This bill would make college more achievable four our working class and low-income families. Students across all campuses and I support bills such as SB 5215.
The first week of legislative session has been an amazing and mind changing experience. These bills reflect the true fight for higher education in the State of Washington and the continuation of being here for students who are in hard times.