How can students play a role in supplementing student advocacy in the 2021 legislative session?
Today wraps up my third week working as a legislative intern for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and the second week of the 2021 legislative session. This legislative session has been historic and unique. The transition to virtual hearings seems to have placed experienced and rookie legislators alike on a level playing field as everyone is working to become proficient in using Zoom to conduct official legislative business. While the transition can seem frustrating, it has increased humanity and patience among those involved.
As a bioengineering student and someone with basic knowledge of the legislative process and bill processes, my internship at SBCTC has drastically increased my understanding of the legislative process. After about two weeks of learning the ropes, I was offered an opportunity to testify on behalf of House Bill 1166. Despite my anxiety to testify for the first time at a legislative hearing, I accepted the offer. To prepare for my testimony I researched HB 1166, which would expands the Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness (SSEH) Program. During the 2019 legislative session, the Legislature passed SB 5800, approval to pilot the SSEH program. Through SB 5800, two universities and four community colleges implemented the SSEH program.
Many people testified in support of HB 1166, including myself and two other community college students. The students shared their experiences of homelessness in college and credited the SSEH program as lifesaving. They are proof that the SSEH program is effective and worthy of being expanded to more colleges in Washington.
Through the legislative internship, I have realized the power of student testimony. The State Board’s core focus is community and technical college students. SBCTC has a vast and intricate system, with various branches dedicated to all of the components of community and technical colleges. This includes student services, workforce education, transfer, basic education for adults, diversity, equity, and inclusion, trustees, legislation, and policies. All of these components come together to provide a well-rounded perspective that better allows the State Board to advocate for students in legislation. This can include proposing bills, analyzing bills, and testifying in favor of or opposed to bills.
As I am meeting more people from the State Board, it never ceases to amaze me how many exceptional people are dedicated to providing the most equitable and ideal community or technical college experience for students.
As a legislative intern, I hope to reach as many students and student council/organizations to encourage them to follow educational or workforce related bills throughout the legislative session. It is a common misconception among students to believe that there is no place for us in the legislative process, but that could not be further from the truth. In fact, many legislators view student testimony to be the most impactful and sincere. By giving this information, I hope to inspire students to take an active role in student advocacy and testify for bills.