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From here to now

April 09, 2021 by Da'Mea Birdsong

With just weeks before of the end of my 2021 legislative session internship, I continue to be filled with appreciation for the opportunity to advocate on behalf of Washington college students. Over the three months I’ve been with the State Board, Sydney and I have been introduced to amazing people who are so passionate about making the road to higher education as accessible as possible for all students in Washington state. Although my journey with the State Board is coming to an end, this is just the beginning of my advocacy work. With the experience I’ve gained from this internship, I now have the tools I need for my voice to be heard as a citizen and a student of Washington state. 

Highlights of my experience in the 2021 legislative session

House Bill 1016

Sponsored by Rep. Morgan and so many more, House Bill 1016 is an effort to make Juneteenth — June 19th — an officially recognized statewide holiday. I’ve been apart of this bill since Day Four of my internship, working along with Ha Nguyen, the State Board’s director of equity and diversity, as she mentored me through each phase of the bill’s progress. The bill passed the House with 89 yeas and 9 nays and last week passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee 20 to 5. I testified on House Bill 1016 three times, speaking about my experience as a person of color and the lasting effect that American history has had on the minority experience. Through the voice of my ancestors, I spoke for all members of the BIPOC community to have a chance to been seen and heard within their culture. 

House Bill 1176

I began working on House Bill 1176 during the first month of the legislative session alongside Troy Goracke, a Basic Education for Adults policy associate. Sponsored by Rep. Paul, this bill addresses school districts’ ability to withhold a student’s official grades and transcripts because of an unpaid fee or fine, and it amends RCW 28A.635.060 and 28A.325.050. During my testimony on this bill, I was able to identify and relate to high school students who are low-income or have other struggles that may hold them back from an accessible road to higher education. This bill passed the Senate on Tuesday with 25 yeas and 23 nays.

House Bill 1166

House Bill 1166 was the last bill I had the opportunity to testify in support of. Just last week, this was one of two bills that I testified in support of during a Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing. This bill is an effort to expand access to the supporting homeless and foster care college students pilot program. While I have no experience with homelessness, nevertheless the road to higher education has at times been very unstable for me. I was honored to have the opportunity to advocate for students whose road to higher education has been unstable as well. It was an all-around great experience to work alongside Jessica Porter, the pilot program’s administrator, who is so dedicated to each bill she is apart of. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Leavitt and passed the Senate on Wednesday with 41 yeas and 8 nays.

Overall, this was an invaluable opportunity for Sydney and me during a time when so many college students are unsure of the future of higher education. Being a part of the State Board has given us the ability to bring the student voice to every conversation we’ve had with lawmakers in Washington state. I’ve been able to start my young career of advocacy with an institution that I’m constantly proud to work for, with my head held high and confidence that Washington will continue to move in the right direction of equality and inclusion. My time here at the State Board has been nothing but wonderful, and each moment is something I will cherish for life. 

Last Modified: 4/16/21, 4:58 PM
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