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When you move with purpose

February 12, 2021 by Da'Mea Birdsong

Being a part of advocacy week was an amazing experience to finally talk to students who are interested in advocating for their colleges. Sydney and I were invited to a Council of Unions and Student Programs (CUSP) meeting earlier last week, where we spoke to our peers about our experience as legislative interns. We spoke on topics ranging from testimonies to virtual hearings. The conversation was filled with information, laughter, and proactive steps to using the resources around us to get the word out to our campuses and to be involved in bills that may affect school life. I left the meeting understanding that all voices in our community and technical college system need to be heard in order to ensure that higher education in Washington state is accessible to all.

On Saturday, Feb. 6, I attended the Washington Student Engagement Networks (WA-SEN) 2021 Student Engagement Day. This event celebrated the power of students’ stories, and we learned how to educate legislators about the importance of supporting higher education for all Washington residents. The workshop focused on closing the racial, gender, and income opportunity gap through storytelling and advocacy. This workshop allowed my peers and me to break down stereotypes about politics as a whole, focus on our local government, and how we can work to change policies that hold oppressed groups back from achieving simple tasks. While attending this workshop, I was reminded that I matter, and my story is what got me to the place I’m right now. Understanding this allows me to give voice to those who or can’t use theirs. As an intern, I can help students tell their stories and represent them when they are unable to represent themselves. Overall, my experience with this workshop was amazing. It was uplifting to be surrounded by pure excellence of up and coming leaders and advocates. This experience rejuvenated the purpose that I fight with.

The week started with the House College & Workforce Development Committee hearing House Bill 1468 on Feb. 8 at 1:30 p.m. Dr. Joe Holliday, the director of student services at the State Board, college administrators, and mental health counseling faculty testified before the committee in strong support of starting the pilot program the bill would establish if passed. This bill was written based on recommendations of the Community and Technical College Counselor Task Force report, presented to the committee on Jan. 14. On Thursday Substitute House Bill 1468, along with an amendment, was voted out of committee with a do pass recommendation.

This bill is important because it addresses an important problem that affects Washington’s population as whole and, significantly, students. Living in a society where conversations about mental health are avoided, along with the current pandemic, has increased the need for mental health support. On my campus, the lack of mental health services available to students is an increasing problem and a top problem on student leaders’ agenda. We continue to work on providing a safe and inclusive environment to students on all campuses. Although this bill would only have the ability to help eight schools, I do believe that this bill would start necessary conservations on college campuses.

With another week of the 2021 legislative session coming to a close, Sydney and I have been working on resources we can share with our peers and people at all community and technical colleges. The resources will help students and college representatives create relationships with members of the Legislature, keep up to date with agendas, and bills to focus on. In addition, Sydney and I have been compiling a list of town hall meetings that will be given to students and teams from the colleges to help keep the issues facing community and technical colleges top of mind.

Overall, I feel that within a chaotic environment of life, I’ve been able to bring some hope to my campus. With tools that I’ve learned over the course of the internship, I can help students and staff form agendas and be proactive in problem solving to improve services college life. Although we are heading into the halfway point of this internship, I believe that the community and technical college system will do an amazing job in maintaining and improving the road to higher education in Washington state. In these upcoming weeks, I hope to work alongside other students on testimonies and increasing advocacy through modern day resources. This work will allow Washingtonians to take advantage of these new virtual hearings so everyone can tell their story.

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