Moving Students Beyond Service and Into Advocacy

June 6, 2011
by Rebecca Van Maren, Emerson National Hunger Fellow

Last week, Director of Domestic Campaigns Meredith Dodson and I presented at the Bonner Summer Leadership Institute in Albany, New York.  As a part of my work plan through the Congressional Hunger Center, I am working with students and engaging them in advocacy work. We were able to conduct multiple advocacy trainings for Bonner Scholars from across the nation. Including a pre-conference session where in district legislative staff came to the college campus for the students to lobby on Head Start and other RESULTS issues. It was exciting to see a group of college students advocating for the first time. Many of the students in the room previously had little contact with their members of Congress, and had only heard about Head Start earlier that day. The Congressional Staffers were really supportive and commented on how well the meetings went.

We also did training on using media in advocacy and how to write a convincing laser talk. It was great to see how many students were already engaged and using media to share and collect information, and how they could take it one step further.  However, my favorite session was on how to incorporate advocacy into the service the students were already doing on campus. I too was a very involved and service minded college student, and it was great to share my story about transitioning from service into advocacy. The students were already doing some fantastic things, and this session enabled them to share ideas with other student leaders, and brainstorm ways they can take advocacy back to campus.

Attending both the Bonner Summer Leadership Institute and the IMPACT Conference in April were great ways to gear up for Campus for Change. In a few weeks 16 college students, including 4 Bonner interns, will be coming to D.C. for extra training during our International Conference, and  helping to expand the presence of RESULTS on their campus.

As we look towards the future and continue to partner with students across the county, it’s great to see the potential these groups have. For example, students and faculty at the new RESULTS group at Wofford College (SC) had a face-to-face meeting with their representative (Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC-4)) only weeks after starting as a group. In their meeting, they urged Rep. Gowdy to talk to House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee chair Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) about Head Start and child care funding, which he later did. Great job Wofford! We are excited to keep the momentum going and are anxious to see the great work you and other college groups are able to do in the future.

In a few months, we hope to have a special training series (conference call or webinar based) geared for college students. Stay tuned for more information as we look for a great way to expand the work that RESULTS is doing.

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