1st place: Emma Tavolieri, Comm Student Spotlight

http://blogs.umass.edu/commadvi/

2nd place: Erika Civitarese, “Fight for $15” Campaign

I am a part of a national student organization, the United States Student Association. It is the country’s oldest, largest, most diverse, student-run, student-led student association. I have been involved with USSA for three years now; through this organization, I have found my family, my home, and my future. I sit on the Board of Directors as the Community Labor Liaison. I work with national organizations and unions in order to increase the student voice and narrative at the decision table. We plan strategic direct-action campaigns to center the voices of marginalized students and shift dynamics of power back to the students.

What I am currently working on within NSPS is a national campaign against the budget cuts to the Department of Education. I have played an integral part in creating the messaging, tone, and strategic plan in this campaign. We have connections in Congress where we received information surrounding the budget cuts a few weeks before they were announced. The cuts were clearly made without consulting students and listening to those who will be deeply affected by the cuts.

At this years National Student Power Summit students from across the country will convene in Washington D.C. to help get this campaign off the ground. I have planned tirelessly for six months to ensure this summit not only happens, but also brings students together to collectively rise in a tumultuous time where we are being silenced. I would not be able to do this work without the support of Communication faculty and their support during social justice campaigns I have been apart of.

I also have the pleasure of planning a direct action that will happen during the summit. I have gone through idea after idea as to how to surprise our targets, and get outside of our target’s comfort zone. It’s a whole new ballgame with this administration. I have been coordinating with Senator Bernie Sander’s office to plan a press conference where student voice and experience will be centered while he introduces a new radical higher education bill. The process of planning this press conference has been rewarding. I have gained skills amongst crafting an action for the media, and I have communicated with national congressional offices to make sure students are being prioritized. This is why I do the work that I do. It’s not about personal gain – it’s about winning collectively and resisting all forms of oppression together.

Students across the country will and already have been benefiting from this campaign I helped to create. If we are loud enough and strong enough, the 13.5% cuts that Trump had planned will not happen. We will win free higher education, we will win a fully funded Pell Grant, we will win tuition equity for undocumented students, we will win fully funded Historically Black Colleges/Universities, and we will win it all.

 

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