Eastern students lobby at state capitol


Students from across Washington state gathered in Olympia, Wash., to participate in the Student Association’s annual Lobby Day on Feb. 14, where students were able to interact with law makers.

By Shannon Bedell, Eagle Life Writer

As the sky continued to bring down fat raindrops, the first sight of the giant pillars and dome of the capitol building came into view. It was a sight of great magnitude symbolizing not only the importance of the building but the impact of this place’s ability to make a change.

EWU students participated in Washington Student Association’s annual Lobby Day on Feb. 14. Lobby Day allows students from universities across the state to share their concerns and see Washington’s government in action. The event is sponsored by the Washington Student Association which is an organization made entirely of students from Washington’s colleges. The association works to represent collective student interests in Olympia.

This year’s Lobby Day allowed participants the chance to meet with House representatives and senators on some of the main issues currently affecting education. Eastern was represented by 17 students.

Some of the current issues being worked on in Olympia are the Dream Act, in-state tuition for veterans and keeping higher education affordable for students.

The day began with a rally on the steps of the Temple of Justice in which Rep. Gerry Pollett and Marcus Ricelli spoke, along with stories from students who had personal experience with some of the current education issues.

EWU graduate student in public health, Elena Calderon, explained at the rally what it is like to be an undocumented 1079 student. This is a student able to attend university and pay tuition but is not allowed to legally work or qualify for federal financial aid.

“It’s me. It’s us. It’s having to navigate an education system where barriers are set up everywhere to prevent us from getting a college education,” said Calderon.

Calderon lived with the fear of asking the financial aid office questions on scholarships, the one form of aid she was able to receive, because she did not want them to ask for documents like a social security card or birth certificate.

“You go and hide and are afraid of your own university. It’s really hard to feel comfortable in an environment where you’re scared of being who you are,” said Calderon.

Rep. Pollett, from the 46th District, discussed the importance of keeping tuition down and of the importance of making higher education more affordable for Washingtonians, no matter their family income.

“We can afford it, damn it,” said Pollett.

Pollett went on to discuss the importance of this issue and a bill that would touch on the subject later in the day.

After the rally, students discussed current bills within small groups that they wanted to discuss with senators and representatives. Students learned how to pitch “asks,” or support for different bills, in actual meetings with officials.

They also had the opportunity to attend meetings with senators on the wings of the floor and in their offices, while House representatives were asked to come off the floor to take the time to meet with students in the lobby.

Henry Conyers, a senior in interdisciplinary studies, explained he really came to get the experience and to get some insight into how things work.

“I’ve never seen the inner workings of government at work, and being part of it really gives you an insight on what is going on,” said Conyers.

The Washington Student Association will continue building visibility and power around important higher education issues and keep legislators accountable.