By Rhianna Hruska, 2nd Year MES Student, Secretary/Treasurer of the Clean Energy Committee, and Sustainability Resident Assistant for the Mods.
Having lived in both Washington, D.C. and Olympia, WA, I must admit that I am drawn to capital cities. This academic year, I have been an active member of the Washington Student Association. From this experience I also wanted to advocate for students on the federal level. From March 18-21, 2016, I attended the United States Student Association’s (USSA) National Student Power Summit at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. There were many campuses represented at the conference, including: University of Massachusetts, Amherst; University of California, Santa Cruz; University of Oregon, University of Washington, Tacoma; University of Southern California, George Mason University, just to name a few. USSA is a non-profit led and run by students, with many of the staff being alum of the student associations. During the conference, there is a weekend of workshops and lobby trainings before a national student lobby day for higher education on Monday March 21st. On the lobby day I met with the staff of Washington Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell’s offices. I also met with Congressman Denny Heck, who is an Evergreen alum, and two of his staff members. I discussed Truth in Tuition, the Pathways to an Affordable Education Act, and gave Evergreen student stories demonstrating the importance of supporting Pell and Washington State Need grants. I will continue to collaborate with the Washington Student Association to work on issues affecting students in higher education.
One of the workshops that I particularly learned a lot from was the “Building Intersectional Youth Power for Climate Justice and System Transformation” session. One of the speakers was a National Field Organizer for the U.S. Climate Plan. I learned more about utilizing the student movement to combat the impending challenges of climate change. Issues like fossil fuel divestment, clean energy, or water usage are a few examples of topics that students can advocate for in order to advance sustainability or environmental justice on their campuses.
While I was in DC, I also had the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian Institutions, especially the Natural History Museum, where I interned back in Spring 2013. I went to the National Archives and saw the original copies of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. I walked through the memorials near the National Mall and spent time re-connecting with colleagues from my undergraduate alma mater, the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Many thanks to The Evergreen State College Deans Office, the Master of Environmental Studies Association, Clean Energy Committee, and the Geoduck Student Union for making this trip possible and for funding an MES student to attend the USSA summit and lobby in DC.