During FCAN’s first-ever Advocacy Week (Jan. 24-28), seven LCAN leaders and 14 students — representing 16 counties and 10 of Florida’s colleges and universities — met with over 20 legislators to advocate for statewide policies to reach Florida’s SAIL to 60 Initiative and achieve a Talent Strong Florida.
FCAN’s 2022 advocacy agenda includes universal FAFSA completion with supports, seamless CTE-to-state college transfer, and emergency financial aid.
In order to prepare for these meetings, fellows participated in FCAN’s first Advocacy Fellowship, where LCAN and student fellows learned to apply key components of advocacy, increased their ability to tell their stories effectively, and successfully communicated with their elected officials.
Charleita M. Richardson, FCAN’s executive director, weighed in on the new fellowship — which is an exciting first for FCAN — and what it means for the organization’s work in Florida.
“The work we do at FCAN directly impacts students across Florida,” Richardson said. “I am proud that our first ever FCAN Advocacy Week brought these students to the forefront of our initiatives and allowed them to truly have a stake in policy discussions by directly communicating with state legislators on the needs of building a Talent Strong Florida.”
University of Central Florida student, Hailey McTee — representing Broward County’s Bridge to Life (B2L) LCAN —was inspired by the positive experiences she had meeting with legislators. “Speaking with legislators about the barriers students face in pursuing higher education and sharing our recommendations has been so rewarding,” Hailey said. “Every legislator has been so receptive and eager to help; it inspires me to continue advocating and potentially hold an elected position one day!”
Noah Ferebee, a freshman at State College of Florida (PlanIt Sarasota LCAN), felt fortunate to participate in such a special event. “Getting to speak with Rep. Buchanan was such an amazing experience,” Noah recalled. “It was more than an honor to discuss policy with him and overall [it was] something that happens very rarely in common life.”
Leah Frances-Casimini, a recent graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University and student representative of FutureMakers Coalition LCAN across Southwest Florida, enjoyed the opportunity to tell her story. Leah returned to school 17 years after receiving her AA and thought FCAN Advocacy Week was “a great experience, being able to connect with policymakers and get involved in the process.”
FCAN Advocacy Week gave the fellows an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in order to inform policymakers about FCAN’s work and the support postsecondary students need in Florida. Continuing our advocacy work is essential and a never-ending task; ensuring policymakers are informed about ways we can achieve a talent-strong workforce moves the needle for policy change, community collaboration, and creating opportunity for everyone.