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From campus to the capitol: Seattle Central College Advocacy Day calls for legislative action to support student welfare

There is power in bringing individual voices to places of influence. This is evident in a recent effort to shift legislative discussions to encompass personal struggles, goals, and pleas for change. On Jan. 25, students from Seattle Central College participated in an advocacy day at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia. Aligned with the Washington Community & Technical College Student Association (WACTCSA) 2024 legislative agenda, these students addressed issues including textbook affordability, harm reduction, student pay equity, and increased financial assistance, with a primary focus on housing affordability.

They aimed to lobby key figures: Rep. Chipalo Street, Rep. Frank Chopp, Rep. Nicole Macri, and Sen. Noel Frame. Going beyond discourse dominated by data, students sought to bring personal narratives into the conversation, urging policymakers to look beyond numbers and comprehend the real-world implications of their decisions for students across the Seattle Colleges and Washington state.

Student Voices and Realities

For the students of Seattle Central College, this opportunity to engage with high-ranking government officials, albeit primarily through their aides, marked a novel experience and a chance to get their voices heard.

For Rio Takahashi, the Executive of Communications within Central’s Associated Student Council (ASC), the advocacy day was the first opportunity to tell the legislature what students have been sharing.

“Especially as an international student, I’ve heard so many troubles. I hope that my voice, which I delivered, reached them, and somehow they are touched,” Takahashi said.

Centaine How reflected, “It was an entirely new experience for me.” With a dedicated focus on affordable housing, she wanted to be a part of the fight for change by bringing her perspective as an international student. How posed fundamental questions: what steps can be taken to enhance the affordability of student housing? She also delved into interconnected issues of student pay equity and the economic challenges they face. In a scenario where most funds are allocated to tuition, how can students afford basic living expenses?

In addressing students’ disparities, Alex Akmatov, the Executive of Legislative Affairs within ASC, said, “everyone is telling us students that they want us to succeed, but nobody is actually talking about the limitations and the barriers that are there.”

Akmatov questioned, “How can we focus on school when every month we’re thinking about, ‘Am I going to be homeless next month if I don’t work a certain amount of hours?’ Seeing my friends struggle with their lives, not being able to afford rent, just breaks my heart.” 

The dilemma of whether to study, focus on school, risk homelessness and hunger, or work incessantly, leaving no time for studies, sparked contemplation on how to support students.  Acknowledging and dismantling these barriers was a goal for the students involved. 

Participating in Democracy and Humanizing Those in Authority

The interaction with elected representatives also provided students with a unique experience about the mechanics of democracy and allowed them to shift their perspectives of those with authority.

Reflecting on the engagement, Julia Pearson highlighted that it was more of a discussion than a one-way talk.

“It was less of a speech and more like a conversation, of trying to appeal to them,” Pearson said. “We were basically trying to appeal to them and their empathy and give more personal stories so that hopefully, when they’re thinking of new bills to address or to push forward, they will remember us and our stories.”

Andre Bacon saw the opportunity to speak to representatives as a chance to get involved with local government. 

“A democracy only really works if everyone is involved. I think that we almost take it as a given that our elected representatives are someone else, high in another building, but to have the chance to speak to one of them really felt like they’re brought down to my level,” Bacon said.

Truce Montoya, Associate of Outreach for the ASC, elaborated on the significance of realizing to humanize those in authority, stating, “It gives you that knowledge that, yes, legislators are these big people, but they are trying to help us, and you shouldn’t be so nervous when talking to them.”

The essence of Advocacy Day, as articulated by Akmatov, is to “break the bridge” that perpetuates a sense of separation between students and authority. Emphasizing the need to shed formality or impress them, Akmatov urged a sincere and authentic dialogue about issues students are passionate about. 

“They’re also human beings,” Akmatov said. “What’s different is that they have the power to influence your life and make your life easier or worse. They have the power to make a change in this country, which some people don’t have, which is why we are advocating.”

Perpetual Betterment and a Student-Centric Vision

The quest for betterment is perpetual. There will always be aspects that require fixing and opportunities for enhancement to ensure increased accessibility and better alignment with our community’s diverse needs. Akmatov envisions a future for college students across Washington State that includes free public transportation and the promotion of Washington Promise, funding for prayer rooms, establishing all-gender restrooms, and improved accessibility around campus.

Akmatov also expressed hope for inclusive representation, stressing the importance of every voice being heard.

“We can achieve this through advocacy. Together, being strong as a community, working towards progress,” he said.

Seattle Central College Students’ Advocacy Day at the Washington State Capitol showcases the influence of personal stories in reshaping legislative priorities.  Honest dialogue and humanized connections with policymakers underscore the imperative of dismantling barriers for enduring transformation. As we envision a future that prioritizes students, the goal is straightforward: working together to create equitable and supportive education policies.


Danika Djuanda

Born and raised in the lively ambiance of Jakarta, Danika is a burgeoning storyteller. Now, nestled in Seattle’s rain-soaked embrace, she refines her craft as an editor and writer at the Seattle Collegian while pursuing her AA degree. With every keystroke, she senses anticipation, understanding that her words could unveil hidden stories and amplify unheard voices. Danika’s mission transcends reporting; it is about infusing vitality into narratives that spark change and resonate with the world, leaving an enduring impact.

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