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PCC students headed to D.C. are on a mission
Photos and Story by James Hill
As political leaders search for answers to the economic crisis, 18 students from Portland Community College are taking the matter into their own hands.
Instead of going on the usual kind of Spring Break, the students from each of the college’s comprehensive campuses are traveling to Washington, D.C., in separate trips at the end of March to visit with lawmakers. The student leadership trips will target Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. David Wu and Earl Blumenauer. The students plan to make the issue of funding to community colleges a priority.
The Sylvania Campus contingent will leave March 20 to attend the United States Students Association’s national conference, which meets annually in the nation’s capital to present workshops in lobbying, voter registration, legislative skills and resources. But the big part of the trip will be visiting the lawmakers.
“We want to let them know that community colleges are a huge part of the economic recovery and is something they need to cognizant of,” said Amber Hastings, student leader from Sylvania. “We want to bring the message that community colleges, not just on the local level, need to be a part of the national recovery, too. When companies start hiring again there needs to be a pool of skilled workers who are ready to go. Where will we get these people? Community colleges. We are so flexible that we can retrain these people and get them back into the workforce.”
A group of 10 students from the Rock Creek Campus are traveling to D.C. to get training in lobbying, federal financial aid issues and other issues facing community colleges on their trip, which starts March 24. The students will cap their visit by assisting Habitat for Humanity. One student, John Smith, will serve as a good example for the legislators. Smith, 38, said he found the support he needed at PCC to juggle, work, family and school. He felt called to bring a strong message about PCC’s importance to the Oregon congressional delegation in Washington.
“Ideally, the D.C. trip will save us from making cuts that would prevent future students from coming to PCC,” Smith said. “If we can come back and inspire other students to give and serve, it might just get contagious.”
To pay their way to the U.S. Capital, the Rock Creek students have been fundraising since last year by holding garage sales, gathering pledges and selling poinsettia pants. They were asked to raise $250 per person to cover their personal expenses and college activity fees will pay for airfare, hostel accommodations and Washington, D.C., Metro passes.
After the trips, the students will gear up for April’s Oregon Community College Association’s Student Lobby Day in Salem, which will celebrate community college students from all over the state in April. The students have launched a mail-in campaign to their representatives and have sent 300 postcards explaining the role of community colleges as first responders to the public in a weak economy.
“It is refreshing to work with students who are willing to give up spring break for civic engagement,” said Mandy Ellertson, student leadership coordinator at the Rock Creek Campus and adviser to the group.
The Cascade Campus will send three students. Besides lobbying the lawmakers, the group will attend the Women’s Feminist Majority Conference, starting March 19. Like with the previous two groups, Cascade students will take the opportunity to visit many of the Capital’s monuments and museums to put an exclamation point on their experience.
Students who are headed to Washington D.C. include:
Rock Creek Campus (17705 N.W. Springville Road)
Sohely Paez (Beaverton), Kevin Rodemack (Aloha), Nancy White, John M. Smith (Northwest Portland), Aaron Mosely, Melissa Rico (Vancouver), Alejandra Trujillo (Beaverton), Angella Hollyfield (Beaverton), Karen Howard (Northeast Portland) and Sydney Eustrom (Northeast Portland).
Sylvania Campus (12000 S.W. 49th Ave.)
Ana Antic (Lake Oswego), Tiffany Dollar (Oregon City), Amber Hastings (Southwest Portland), and Bonnie and Shelly Skolfield (Southeast Portland).
Cascade Campus (705 N. Killingsworth St.)
Marissa Johnson (Southeast Portland), Amber Parke (North Portland) and Sonrisa Sonnleitner (Southeast Portland).