After months of training and working to gain the skills and information needed to confidently advocate for policies that help create a Talent Strong Florida, FCAN’s second-year cohort of Advocacy Fellows recently got to put those skills to the test.
On Feb. 7-8, FCAN hosted its first in-person Advocacy Days at the Florida State Capitol. FCAN’s 2023 advocacy agenda includes universal FAFSA completion, emergency and need-based financial aid, and increasing awareness of current CTE transfer pathways (and how those pathways may be strengthened).
FCAN’s advocacy fellows are community leaders throughout Florida working with two students in their region to achieve the goals of the fellowship. During Advocacy Days, FCAN’s fellows learned about the key components of advocacy and how to apply these best practices during meetings with legislators.
Throughout the sessions, fellows heard from Impact Florida President Mandy Clark and former State Representative Vance Aloupis as they both shared their experience and knowledge in this space. Through their current and previous work, they were able to demonstrate to the fellows how advocacy skills can be applied successfully, regardless of the policies being discussed. This, along with a discussion featuring previous fellows Hailey McTee and Tessa LeSage, contributed to the fellows’ ability to tell their stories effectively.
FCAN recognizes that students must be at the forefront when conducting this advocacy work. Humberto Sigler-Finales, a student studying psychology at FAU (representing Achieve Palm Beach County), enjoyed the opportunity to lend his voice to state government.
“I got to learn so much about our government and the creation of legislation,” Humberto said. “In a small way, I also got to be a part of that process.”
With 14 meetings over two days, our fellows were able to connect with the legislators from their communities to advocate for FCAN’s advocacy agenda while also discussing the important work of local college access networks.
Miami-Dade College student, Natalie Gelman (Graduate Miami Dade), said it was “an honor to serve as a student fellow! Learning how to advocate for matters that my community needs has allowed me to grow professionally and personally. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to represent Graduate Miami-Dade and work alongside such extraordinary and dedicated fellows. This experience has opened doors I never knew existed.”
Sharry Ann Solis (APSIRE Capital Region), an FSU student studying family and child sciences, has grown up in Tallahassee but never connected to the legislative process before.
“The Capitol building was a place that seemed like an entirely different world despite being only miles away,” Sharry said. Through Advocacy Days, I got a better grasp of the inner workings of the Florida Legislature and how important this work is in advancing our communities. In getting the chance to speak with legislators about college access, I now feel more compelled to use my voice to advocate about issues I feel passionate about.”
Congratulations to all of our fellows for their hard work and thank you to the legislators who met with us and listened to our proposals for strengthening opportunities for education beyond high school!