Tuesday morning at 7, several fellow Utica/MVCC students and faculty and I boarded the comfort of a Bernie coach bus to head to Student Advocacy Day in Albany. In the government capital building, more than 100 other New York students, along with our small group, came to lobby the state representatives, senators, and assembly members to advocate for student financial aid. What could be a better experience than seeing firsthand how government makes its decisions on something that affects us as students?
Starting off the day we have to go through security, typical precautions for an important building like this. But of course, I am made to walk through several times because of the glitter on my shoes – a very interesting start to the day. We all then gathered to meet with fellow Utica alumni, John Casellini, who currently works in Albany as an advocate for Utica College. Meeting with him helped ease the nervousness because he is a professional lobbyist, and we needed his help!
After the of wisdom from Casellini, all students were gathered to speak about their stories, and listen to several speakers about these aid options. Students told their stories at the rally about their struggles with financial aid, and their experience with the New York student aid options. They were very relatable, sad, and inspiring stories from other students all around the state who needed to advocate for their education.
We had three meetings with two very important people, and I mean important. We met with assembly members, Anthony Brindisi, who is on the board of higher education, and Senator Griffo. We all went into their offices, sat down, and spoke about our issues with the finical aid programs. Not only is it just fantastic to meet these people, but this experience of acting as professional lobbyist, and actually using one of our Constitutional rights to advocate was just cool all in and of itself. When else do we as individuals ever get to go lobby the government?
At the end of the day, we got a chance to walk around the building and explore. Talk about gorgeous; the famous “Million dollar stair case” is a sight to see: hand-crafted sandstone that goes four floors up. Not to mention, the history artifacts, and the Hall of Governors is practically a museum. The history in this building goes all the way to our founding fathers of America.
In the end, after the pain of walking for hours, and the constant annoyance of dress slacks and dress shoes, we managed to get our messages across. Not only was this a rewarding experience in the way that we get to see government happen before our eyes, but rewarding as in the way that I feel like we accomplished to relay the vice of the students to our government.