I had the privilege to take part in our annual Hill Day event on March 21 and actually see this all in action. This day is when Citizen Schools representatives - staff, board members, student alumni and Citizen Teachers - from all eight of our states go to Capitol Hill to meet with our representatives.
We spoke with a range of politicians- Senators, Representatives, aides and even Minority Leaders Pelosi and McConnell. We talked about the impact of Citizen Schools in their districts, the success our students experienced as a result of the program, the important work AmeriCorps members are doing throughout the community, as well as the potential for the future of education. I even saw staff answering phones and actually writing down tallies for support/dissent on policies.
In some meetings, we encountered vigorous head-nodding agreement; in others, it was a learning experience for both sides. For me personally, it was a fantastic experience to be there, having real-time discussions about the impact of sequestration, this abstract but constant buzz word that had surrounded me for the past 2 months. We strategized ways to preserve the funding and support that makes Citizen Schools be able to provide middle school students with the opportunity to realize and achieve their dreams. Most of all, we shared stories and gave a voice to the students who we serve, to the staff and volunteers who help our students achieve success.
I walked away from the day feeling empowered and full of promise. I felt like my voice was heard and we achieved something. We are currently working with schedulers for our representatives to get visits on the books for this spring to see our students and apprenticeships in action. I’m eagerly anticipating these, as I know seeing our students, staff and volunteers in action will bring to reality the importance of education support.
The cherry on top - March 21 was my mother-in-law’s birthday. When I texted her a quick “Happy Birthday” early that morning and told her what I was doing, she promptly responded back, “You’ve come a long way baby.” Have I ever!