Advocating from Home: A Holmes Scholar Perspective
This article is a personal reflection of the 2020 Washington Week Day on the Hill virtual conference and congressional visits by Holmes Scholar Eleanor Su-Keene.
When I attended the AACTE Annual Meeting in February of this year, I did not know that would be the last time I flew on a plane or attended any large gathering for the foreseeable future. Needless to say, the past seven months have been a surreal experience. As I try to navigate life as a mother of two young children, a homeschool teacher, and a doctoral student, I find myself not only working from home, but working with home. As such, I came to the computer skeptical of an experience that lived up to that which my fellow Holmes Scholars experienced in pre-COVID years.
As educators, we know how incredibly important it is to be cognizant of both the lesson at hand and what exactly students will be doing during that lesson. In this respect, it should come as no surprise that the conference was extremely well planned and thoroughly thought out from beginning to end. The 2020 AACTE Washington Week Virtual Day on the Hill conference was incredibly well organized from the platform that was chosen to the ease of use from getting to and from the main “stage” to breakout sessions. As a Holmes Scholar, I had more intimate meetings with leading scholars and advocates in socially just educational reform, but I was surprised to find even in the main conference, it felt just as personal. The real time engagement of the speakers with the chat box function allowed for an exchange that would be impossible during an in-person format.
The content of the conference was both powerful and empowering. As a first generation American, meeting with legislatures and advocating was something that seemed completely foreign. Not only did AACTE provide differentiated tracks on learning how to advocate, but they also guided me and my colleagues through detailed trainings on contacting and setting up meetings with our state senators and house representatives. AACTE’s advocacy program taught me how to take my passion for social justice education and experience as an educator and frame it for advocacy.
The following week, my colleagues and I met virtually with three of our local state representatives. What seemed to be inexplicable a week ago was now a passionate, articulate, and strategic plea for educational support and reform. Not only did we feel confident, but we felt the full weight of AACTE’s support behind us. As I logged off my computer, I felt something that I had not in half a year: excitement. AACTE provided me an important experience. It reminded me that even in these uncertain times that I have a voice, and they were going to teach me how to use it even if I have to do so from home.
Eleanor Su-Keene is a Holmes Scholar and doctoral student at Florida Atlantic University.