Advocating for Aid, Choice, and Opportunity

Marcel, right, with fellow student advocate George Archundia '17
Marcel, left, with fellow student advocate George Archundia ’17, outside the State Capitol in Albany 

Marcel Dupuis ’17 is an accounting major and soccer player at Utica College. On Tuesday, Feb. 14, he  visited the Capitol in Albany for Student Advocacy Day, where he and other UC representatives spoke with state legislators about college affordability, opportunity programs, and school choice. Here, Marcel shares his experience:

Why did you get involved with Student Advocacy Day? 

I wanted to attend Student Advocacy day because I thought it would be important to voice the opinion of the school. Some people don’t have such an outgoing personality and wouldn’t be able to talk to someone with such status as a Senator, so it was an honor to talk on behalf of Utica and other small college institutions. Issues of student aid affect a plethora of students statewide, and they need to be talked about and discussed in order to have the best outcome possible for all parties.
Why are student aid and opportunity programs so important? 
The aid we receive is vital to many students and their families. It’s important because not all families can afford to front the money for their kids to attend college, and in today’s society a college degree is required to apply for many jobs. Aid helps level the playing field in a sense, and makes earning a degree more affordable.
unnamed-14What did you learn from your experience in Albany? 
I obviously learned how much it means to many students to have the financial aid from the government and from other scholarships. However, I also learned how important it is for lawmakers. Most of the lawmakers we talked to seemed to have a similar view on the situation; with the way the Governor Cuomo has proposed the free tuition plan, there are flaws that need to be ironed out.
Overall, it was an honor to be invited and represent Utica College and other small institutions, and I would absolutely do it again.
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Student Advocacy Day

On February 2, I had the pleasure of attending Student Advocacy Day in Albany, NY, with a group of UC students. We had an early morning—the bus left at 7:30 a.m. So I fueled up on coffee and off we went.

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The entire day was about advocating for student aid programs such as the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP). Students that receive support from these programs got the opportunity to thank lawmakers and express how big of an impact the funding has had on their college education.
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Students with majors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics advocated for money from the STEM program, which is currently only offered to SUNY schools.

We even got to meet personally with Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi and Senator Joseph Griffo.

I think it is extremely important to thank lawmakers for state aid. For some people, it makes the difference of whether or not they can afford to attend college. The funding changes a lot of lives and creates an infinite amount of opportunities.

I would definitely encourage more students to attend Student Advocacy Day next year so that lawmakers continue to make student aid a priority.

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High Heels, Senators, and Lobbyist

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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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