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Sun Devils advocate for college access on Capitol Hill

Alex Butler and Joaquin Ramos in front of the U.S. Capitol building

From left: Joaquin Ramos and Alex Butler in front of the U.S. Capitol during the National College Attainment Network’s Advocacy Training and Hill Day in Washington, D.C.

March 10, 2020

This spring, two ASU students were chosen to receive training about how to advocate for college access to national leaders. Criminal justice senior Joaquin Ramos and history senior Alex Butler were selected to represent ASU at the National College Attainment Network’s Advocacy Training and Hill Day in Washington, D.C. in March. 

Ramos and Butler were selected to participate in the national college access training experience by a committee composed of K–12 educators, higher education professionals and business leaders. 

The National College Attainment Network aims to equip all students, especially low-income and first-generation students, with the knowledge and resources necessary to make going to college a reality. The organization advances this work in Arizona through AZCAN, NCAN’s local arm focused on improving the college-going process for under-served students and communities.

The annual Advocacy Training and Hill Day empowers student representatives to advocate for policies that promote success for college students. The event, presented March 2–3, provided two days of professional skill-building experiences for more than 50 college students from around the country.

Through the experience, Ramos and Butler had the opportunity to meet policy experts, prepare for congressional meetings and talk with members of Congress and their staff about policies for which they would most like to advocate. 

“We got to talk to a lot of people in the legislative process, which was a great experience,” Butler said. “My biggest takeaway from the whole entire trip is the importance of advocating for the experiences you’ve gone through.”

Ramos and Butler each prepared a three-minute speech to share and set the stage for their conversations with elected officials. Ramos discussed student loan repayments and Butler discussed federal work-study programs.

The two met with a variety of officials including Rep. Greg Stanton, staff representing Rep. Raul Grijalva, Rep. Ruben Gallego, Sen. Martha McSally and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

The entire experience felt “powerful” Ramos said. “The fact that I met with elected officials.The fact that I was sitting face to face. It was something I never thought I’d be doing.”  

Roxanne Dewyer-Murphy, the director of statewide initiatives for College Success Arizona, was with the students on the trip. She said her favorite part was seeing the students use their personal stories to advocate for college affordability. 

“The impact of the experience on the ASU students was hopefully how powerful their personal stories can be in making an ask to change or create policies that can support current and future students,” she said. 

During the training, Dewyer-Murphy said the students learned about policies that would simplify the financial aid process and the power of what students can accomplish when they work together.   

“Many of our students are the first in their families to achieve a higher education. I'm grateful that they had the opportunity to share their stories of resilience with our national leaders. We were proud to see them represent not only ASU, but all of Arizona,” said Sylvia Symonds, associate vice president for Access ASU’s Outreach programs.

More information on Advocacy Training and Hill Day can be found on AZCAN’s website and NCAN’s website

Written by Madeleine Williamson, Sun Devil Storyteller

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