An eight-hour drive became an opportunity to share my voice. As a Student Government Association leader at Miami Dade College West Campus, I recently had the privilege to visit Tallahassee for a legislative advocacy meeting hosted by the Florida College System Student Government Association.
This proved to be one of the most inspiring experiences in my college journey by far. We got to engage and practice with other MDC campuses in order to address Florida’s House of Representatives and Senate about our college’s concerns about education, safety, and affordability.
Day one was filled with recreational bonding activities for all. We started our day by engaging in mock legislative meetings within our groups as well as learning about different legislative proposals. It was the starting point of our union to achieve something big.
The next day became the most important and memorable day of this experience. We spent the morning at Florida’s Capitol, visiting the offices of several representatives and senators to talk about MDC’s state legislative priorities. This was the time to let our voices be heard.
We spoke up about the need for funding for more hi-tech programs and industry certifications in high-wage occupations, as well as the need for more counselors and tutors, and tracking technology for on-time graduation. We also tackled the District Cost Differential (DCD) in funding formula and the State Matching Program for unmatched funds given by private and local donors.
Yet another important aspect that needs funding is the one-stop resource Single Stop in order to provide mental health services at each campus. As a psychology major and advocate for mental health awareness, I was very passionate about this due to the high demand for mental health counseling I see every day around campus.
Furthermore, we addressed several House and Senate bills that benefit the MDC student body by providing transcript fee waivers for veterans and active duty members in the U.S. Armed Forces, as well to authorize certain Florida College System institutions to waive out-of-state fees for students impacted by hurricanes.
On a personal level, I talked about House Bill 457, which would protect students from being denied classification as residents to receive financial aid awards based on their immigration status. We live in a diverse city where education should provide relief to those suffering the challenges of immigration by giving financial aid to those in need of it. This serves as an incentive for us to keep pursuing our dreams of success.
House Bill 6007 carried a lot of controversy. We opposed this legislation, which would allow students to carry firearms into a college or university facility. Can you imagine how much insecurity this would bring to the faculty, staff and student body? Our lives could be taken by the individuals sitting next to us. We need to prevent others from disrupting our peace inside and outside the classroom.
No one can take away the unlimited power of our voices. We choose, we vote, and we hope for action. History has revealed that significant social advancement is created because of our collective ability to make changes. We are the ones capable of moving the country toward growth.