When Yavapai College executive and elected leaders traveled to Washington D.C. in early February for the Association of Community College Trustees National Legislative Summit, they were accompanied by an extra lobbying team -- one uniquely qualified to help convince our congressional representatives to boost investments in community colleges and their students.

YC Student Government Association President Brian Moultrup, Vice President Andrew Tucker and Treasurer Hannah Lowe accompanied YC President Dr. Lisa Rhine, District Governing Board Chair Deb McCasland, Vice President of Community Relations and Student Development Rodney Jenkins, DGB Member Chris Kuknyo and others to the ACCT event aimed at gaining traction on a number of national priorities for community colleges.

One of those priorities is extending Pell grant eligibility to community college students in technology and workforce training certificate programs. “Those programs not only feed the workforce, but they enhance retention in the workforce,” Jenkins said, reporting on the D.C. trip during a Feb. 22 DGB meeting.

Another legislative priority is increasing Pell grants to cover cost-of-living increases. Another is helping community colleges address the basic needs of students – things like healthcare, food, shelter – so they can focus on their education and reap the economic security it brings.

Jenkins told the DGB the YC student leaders were powerful communicators in meetings with Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly and with Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran. “The students did a lot of the speaking. Our legislators have heard from us plenty so it was great having them speak for us.”

Kuknyo called the student government officers “absolutely fabulous” and thanked them for helping the YC contingent “make our points” with the Arizona Congressional delegation.

Brian, the college’s student government president, told the governing board the D.C. trip “was truly a wonderful relationship building experience,” with students and college leaders uniting behind important initiatives. “It is my hope that the voices of the students at YC and the state of Arizona have been heard and our government leaders will support student success,” he said after the meeting.

Andrew, the SGA’s vice president, believes YC student leaders made an impression on Kelly and O’Halleran. “To hear the needs of students directly from the students themselves makes the issues at hand more realistic,” he said, adding that he is optimistic about future congressional support for community colleges. “When discussion involving Pell Grants come up, the representatives will remember our conversations and apply the information we provided in a way to help Arizonans.”

Hannah, YC’s student government treasurer, said she was honored to represent the college and help convey its priorities in meetings with congressional leaders. “One of the messages I carried with me to Washington was that YC students need support, whether that be emotional or financial. I think that our voices were heard and all we can do is hope that we made an impact.”

It wasn’t all meetings while Brian, Andrew and Hannah were in Washington. The trio fit in as much sightseeing as they could and attended some social outings with their administrative counterparts.

While she immensely enjoyed seeing historic monuments and documents like the Declaration of Independence “that made this country what it is,” Hannah termed a “real gift” the opportunity to share the adventure with her student government colleagues.

Andrew called “surreal” meeting with government leaders at the Capitol, but said he was transfixed by the history-evoking D.C. monuments and buildings. “All of America has gone through a lot to get to where we are today. Being reminded of that made the lines between political parties disappear and I saw a country with one people of brothers and sisters who have accomplished amazing things,” he said.