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A Scholar’s Reflection: Everybody is an Advocate

Girl standing by stairsWashington Week 2020 sessions helped me, a Holmes Scholar and second-year doctoral student in special education, gain an understanding of how to advocate for equitable educational opportunities for marginalized students including students with disabilities by participating in interactive policy discussions and briefings with prominent speakers and participants. I mainly learned that everybody could advocate for promoting educational improvement and success in different ways. This advocacy work becomes a crucial duty especially in this unprecedented time where COVID-19 has exacerbated educational inequities and hit students of color disproportionally.

The amazing Jane West presented and discussed the 4 Ps of Policy Advocacy (People, Policy, Process, and Politics) and their use in planning an advocacy strategy. As an international doctoral student who is not familiar with the American legal system, I found that the session equipped me with the knowledge about the legislative and executive policy cycle with all its players as well as the process and skills needed for effective policy change advocacy.

Based on the advice of the Washington week’s speaker Luis Maldonado, the vice president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), I learned the importance of using research and data to inform policy, building relationships of trust with educational actors, and joining professional organizations as a first step in the advocacy process.

One of the most inspiring conversations was from congressional staffer Lakeisha Steele who provided great ideas on how scholars can engage in the policy process and connect with stakeholders to move educational equity forward. The Day on the Hill was also a great opportunity to visit congressional offices, know about legislative priorities related to education, and practice direct advocacy with Congress.

Washington Week 2020 was an eye-opening experience and training for me and a drive to advocate and take responsibility for promoting educational policy change from the bottom-up to ensure equitable opportunities for students of color and improve their access and success in the educational system.

Latifa Sebti is a Holmes Scholar at Rowan University.

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