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February 26, 2021 by Da'Mea Birdsong

Nearly two months in the 2021 legislative session, bills like SHB 1016 — making Juneteenth a legal state holiday — are being referred, heard and moved. Throughout this week, the Washington State House of Representatives convened for floor debate on pending legislation. While Representatives were busy at work with bill deadlines approaching, committees, for the most part, have not been meeting. With no public hearings on the schedule, Sydney and I have had quite a slow week with no testimony on bills. I’m still hopeful for some action related to HB 1517, a bill that would expand Washington College Grant awards. Even though the bill didn’t receive a public hearing, the expansion would greatly help students and families.

I started this internship as part of my pursuit of a career in politics. I had a basic understanding of how our federal government works, but while I’m learning more about our state and local governments, I have a growing list of ideas and questions about how they work. Specifically, I have seen what the process looks like when it comes to education in Washington state: from K-12 to higher education. Through this internship, I have been part of a team full of qualified and passionate educators who consistently advocate for students, especially those of color. I’ve experienced what it takes to portray true advocacy. I’ve done this through testimony before committees and attending meetings intended to give lawmakers insight on students’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through my experience, I believe we can all hear the stories from actual people that we are trying to advocate for so we can better understand the impacts our decisions have on their everyday lives.

As Sydney and I have discussed what we have learned throughout our time here at the State Board, Sydney has stated that she has enjoyed learning the ropes of legislation. With her background in mainly science and math, she has not had much exposure to things related to politics. She has also been enjoying seeing the crossover of people in leadership positions in student organizations like Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) and the Washington Student Engagement Network (WA-SEN). In some cases, the same leaders who have a presence on their campus are also involved in student-related legislation or committees. She feels like she is strengthening her relationship with other student leaders because she has a chance to learn from them through this internship, their schoolwork, student leadership on campus and their involvement in PTK. Generally, these institutions and programs are related and can therefore make student outreach more attainable. Those who are involved with these organizations have a general purpose: their work makes them more genuine in their actions. 

With our time as interns winding down, I hope we can leave a great connection between students and the State Board. I want students to learn what Sydney and I have learned and keep strong communication between the State Board and students, especially as the college atmosphere changes. Sydney and I hope to reconnect with groups like the Council of Unions and Student Programs (CUSP) so we can build student-to-student relationship for students interested in advocating for their college on a local level.

We hope that we can share our experiences with students and find common ground agendas so that when we leave our internship, we can still properly advocate for ourselves and other students. Overall, I believe that I have achieved the goals that I came into this internship. I have stepped out of my comfort zone to be an advocate for all. 

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