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Connecting passion to policy

February 03, 2023 by Jacob Katz

For many students in our community and technical college system, insecurity around basic needs is a part of everyday life. The already difficult place these students were in was made worse by the pandemic. I know this because I lived it myself — I know how difficult it can be to navigate resources available in the community. This is one of the main reasons I was initially attracted to policy work: the desire to help those whose voices are often left out of the important conversations; conversations that may dictate access to essential resources such as food, shelter, medical care, and mental health services. Bringing the issues to the Legislature from my lens of lived experience could help streamline processes, making it easier for others to access the help they need to be successful members of their communities. On Tuesday, Jan. 31, I was able to testify on a piece of legislation, that, if passed, could help students all over the state to get connected to basic needs resources and achieve educational success.

HB 1559, the Postsecondary Students Basic Needs Act, was introduced in the House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee and is sponsored by Rep. Debra Entenman of the 47th Legislative District, which includes Auburn, Covington and Kent. A few of the things about the bill that inspired my testimony were its creation of basic needs task force to identify the needs of students on community and technical college campuses, the Hunger-Free Campus Plan, and the resource navigator model which could help students access resources in their communities by providing a single point of contact and eliminating barriers to services. I believe no one deserves to be without food, shelter, or community, and although there is still polishing to be done on this specific bill, I was honored to be able to testify on a piece of legislation that aligned so well with my own values.

On Feb. 2, community and technical college students from all over the state traveled to Olympia to participate in the Washington Community and Technical College Student Association’s annual Advocacy Day. Students from each school in attendance met with the senators and representatives from their districts to communicate the legislative priorities they see on their campuses. A legislative agenda, put together to guide the conversations, included increasing the availability of financial resources for students, increasing the availability of mental health resources, expanding access to child care and reducing the cost of textbooks.

The group convened at South Puget Sound Community College’s Lacey campus after the meetings concluded for a debrief of the day’s events. Some of the main takeaways from the day were the accessibility of elected officials, the busy pace of the legislative session, and the value of advocacy.

As I continue to settle into my position as a legislative intern, my excitement around the legislative process grows. Every day I seem to spend more time on the hill than the day before and I am greeted with a sense of purpose and gratitude. There is something special about those old marble hallways and I hope to spend my days there for some time to come.

Last Modified: 2/3/23, 3:15 PM
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