• AACTE 70th Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD

Students Engage, Advocate Through Holmes Network

As participants in the William Paterson University (WP) Holmes Network–part of the AACTE Holmes Program–we have enjoyed many new and stimulating opportunities. Throughout the past year, we’ve received mentorship and other valuable support as Holmes Honors students (undergraduates in teacher preparation programs) and Holmes Master’s students (in-service teachers in graduate programs), and last month we capped it all off with an inspiring trip to AACTE’s Washington Week.

The Holmes Experience
The WP Holmes Network provides support not only in our professional careers, but also in our personal lives. The programs are training us to be leaders who are effective in influencing our schools and communities, and our experiences in the network shape us into more thoughtful and well-rounded educators. The program has given us the opportunity to meet with our dean of education to voice our concerns for the university’s programs. We are building relationships between in-service and preservice teachers that guide and support our journey toward degree completion, and the network allows us a nurturing environment to communicate and learn from one another. Outside our institution, the Holmes Program has connected us with participants and professionals around the country, both virtually and at events like the AACTE Annual Meeting and Washington Week.

Holmes Summer Policy Institute
The Holmes Summer Policy Institute was so much more than a lesson in advocacy. The atmosphere was full of refreshing energy and allowed us to gain knowledge and speak freely in a safe space, but it also led us to imagine new possibilities. The expertise of Holmes Scholars and other participants instilled within us strength and encouragement, leaving us inspired to work harder and achieve more with our lives. Meeting people of color who hold scholarly, powerful positions within our nation–and the strong doctoral candidates who embodied a pathway from “us” to “them”–proposed the notion “We can.” It left a stamp within our hearts that we, too, are capable of this success and do not have to allow the label “at risk” define us. Being surrounded by strong-willed scholars especially brought us enlightenment and inspired us to persevere.

Day on the Hill
Stating the words “Day on the Hill” starts the racing of the heart and places a smile upon the face. After rehearsing our pitch late into the night before the event, we all felt ready to go.

The day began with a literal walk in the park, but was soon followed by running, loud expressions of shock and awe, and time checks. We walked into each congressional office, coming face to face with powerful figures who drive our futures as college students, educators, and citizens.

When reflecting on these experiences, we are overcome with gratitude. Washington Week was breathtaking and overwhelming, yet delightful and humbling. Before attending this event, we were unaware of the importance and significance of the student voice. It is moving to know that our congressmen and women are attentive to their constituents. Now, we have learned that power lies within a collective of people who are willing to put in the work and press onward to a clear, focused vision.


Juan Betancur and Agustin Castillo are Holmes Honors students and Azaria Cunningham and Francisco Ocasio are Holmes Master’s students at William Paterson University. Holmes Scholar Sharon Leathers is the university’s Holmes coordinator.


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Juan Betancur

William Paterson University

Agustin Castillo

William Paterson University

Azaria Cunningham

William Paterson University

Francisco J. Ocasio

William Paterson University

Sharon Leathers

William Paterson University (NJ)

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