On January 27, six Roanoke students: Claire Flowers, James Hamm, Rebecca Hensley, Olivia Kitt, Natalie Hidalgo-Lopez, and Megan Worley, travelled to the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond, Virginia to participate in Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) Advocacy Day.
Annually, Virginia private school students descend on the Virginia Capitol to speak to their legislators and lobby in favor of TAG. Over 50% of Virginia residents at Roanoke College receive the grant, which encourages Virginia students to remain in-state for their higher education.
In Richmond, our six Roanoke student-representatives worked alongside other TAG lobbying groups, and learned what to say and how to interact with Virginia lawmakers. The student-representatives then split up to speak to their individual legislators.
Kitt (‘20), a Political Science major, with a concentration in Legal Studies, had the opportunity to speak face-to-face with Delegate Sam Rasoul, a Roanoke alum. Later, Kitt met with a member of Senator John Edwards’ staff. Kitt said it was cool to meet her delegate in person, and “had a nice dialogue” with him. After her meetings, Kitt watched Senator Edwards chair the Judiciary Committee. Kitt explained the meetings were “just to say thank you.” The student-representatives mostly learned where their delegates and senators were on the TAG issue.
Kitt encourages other students to advocate for any issues they are interested in, “I think one of the beautiful things about our democracy is that we have access like this: our legislators and representatives. We deserve to have our voices heard, and they should want to hear our voices.”
Hensley (‘21), another Political Science major, meet with Senator Steve Newman and Delegate Terry Austin. Hensley saw that Delegate Austin appreciated hearing from his constituents—the feeling was mutual.
When asked if she learned anything, Hensley replied, “Yeah, I understand that I do have a say in what happens in the country. I can advocate for certain things—different types of legislation, and while I was here, I was able to personally be a part of it.”
Hamm (‘21), a Political Science major with a Legal Studies concentration, also met Delegate Austin, as well as a member of Senator Austin’s staff. Hamm commented, “We got to witness a lot of politics going on, and we got to be a part of an interest group.”
One of Hamm’s favorite parts was that he was able to apply his learning from Roanoke to a real-life situation. Hamm’s advice for others who want to do the same thing: “Be prepared for a crowd. In a civil society such as ours, there’s a lot of people who participate on all sides of any position. If you educate yourself beforehand, you’ll be able to have meaningful conversations with people with different points of view.”
Edited by Claire Kivior