Because of looming budget cuts, members from Associated Students, Inc. went to Washington, D.C. during spring break to begin talks with Congress in hopes of lowering student fees and preventing financing programs from being cut.
Through involvement with the California State Student Association, ASI received information about an annual conference with the United States Student Association held March 15-18 in Washington, D.C.
The conference and organization focuses on access to higher education and lobby preparation for meeting with elected officials and their staff.
â€œWe needed a diverse group of students to lay the groundwork for ASI to be viewed as a truly influential and respected leader of 22,000 students that have proven that higher education is an extremely vital role in our society,â€ said Vice President Stephen Trembley.
As part of the expansion of ASIâ€™s focus on lobby efforts, they decided that the next step was to address these issues at a federal level and meet personally with the Washington, D.C. offices of Valley representatives. The first few days were spent practicing how to speak in Congress and attending various conferences and workshops.
â€œIt is the most realistic way for students to actively advocate for lower student fees and the continuation and expansion of academically related programs at Fresno State,â€ Trembley said.
Ten ASI members went on the trip, including President Juan Pablo Moncayo, Trembley, Vice President of Finance Russel Statham and student assistant Alex Andreotti.
Andreotti applied to be one of seven members to go on the trip besides the president and two vice presidents and was chosen as someone who would well represent the school. Her part was introducing each of the members to Congress and telling them why they were there.
â€œI was a little hesitant at first because Iâ€™d never done it before, but it was a good environment,â€ Andreotti said. â€œIâ€™m happy I did it. It was an amazing experience.â€
She believes that this is an issue that affects not only students, but everyone.
â€œEducation is the key to the future,â€ she said. â€œWithout it, society wouldnâ€™t be whole.â€
In Washington, ASI members talked to staff members for Reps. Dennis Cardoza, Jim Costa, Devon NuÃ±ez and George Radanovich about the importance of federal programs that go directly to students such as grants, access to loan repayment and the importance of higher education and how it affects the economy.
Trembley felt that telling their personal stories could make their argument resonate more.
â€œThey need to hear personal stories and how specific programs have made higher education possible,â€ Trembley said.
According to him, the conference gave ASI needed lobby training and networking with other schools to work on future projects, such as registering students to vote, public service initiatives, coordinated collaboration between schools and leadership training.
Trembley said that each of the representatives was very receptive to what they had to say and that ASI will continue to speak with them in the future. He also feels that it was a trip well worth taking.
â€œWe felt that our presence was vital to raising the awareness of these issues,â€ Trembley said. â€œChange takes time, so this is a process that will continue. We look forward to continuing to advocate for Fresno State students and leave ASI a better place than when we started.â€