Guest post by Amanda Lukas, a ServeNext District Captain. Amanda is going into her senior year at University of Louisville in Kentucky. She is an alum of Bonner AmeriCorps program, which is a part time program for college students.
When ServeNext asked me to lead two meetings with my Members of Congress as part of Save Service District Days, I was extremely nervous. My first question was would they even listen to me? As soon as it was discovered that I was a college student, with no real experience in these matters, I was afraid they wouldn’t listen. However, I agreed because I wanted to at least TRY. So I set up meetings with Congressman Yarmuth and a staff member of Senator McConnell.
The first meeting with Congressman Yarmuth was very successful. He was already a supporter of keeping national service organizations in the budget. When I was doing my research, I began to realize that it wasn’t about convincing him to support us, but to encourage him to continue supporting us. He listened to me and the other two women at the meeting; he listened to our arguments and explained the dilemmas going on in Capitol Hill. He explained the arguments being used by the non-supporters.
There were a few important things that came from the meeting. One, the two women and I who had the meeting with Congressman Yarmuth gave the Congressman faces to associate with the issue; he now had personal testimony to bring back to Capitol Hill. Two, he gave us advice that could help kept national service organizations surviving. Three, he listened to what we had to say, which gave us all confidence that someone with more clout is paying attention to this issue. When we left the meeting, I think we made an impact. Again, it was with only one Congressman who already supported our argument, but it made enough of a difference, because it can take only one small action to make a huge change.
The next meeting I had with the staffer of Senator McConnell was something I walked into much more prepared and confident than I would have if I hadn’t met with Congressman Yarmuth first. I had to speak to the staffer by myself, with no other service supporters in the room. I had my arguments formed and my discussion points planned. It was something I was prepared for.
Again, I was listened to, and it seemed as if the staffer was impressed by how I could articulate my ideas and my arguments. The fact that I was a college student with seemingly little experience with this wasn’t a problem and didn’t hurt my credibility. My efforts made an impact. Maybe it wasn’t a large one, maybe it didn’t change any views, but these two representatives have a face and a name to put on this issue.
I just want to say very clearly what I learned from this- anyone can advocate. Not only that, though, but everyone already advocates every day.
Advocacy is defined as the act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending. Everyone advocates for something every day. Whether you are yelling at someone who cut the line, trying to talk your professor into giving you that extra point, or going to a rally to support a nominee, everyone advocates on some level every single day. It is part of our nature, isn’t it? If we believe in something, we advocate for it. We make sure the issue, whether it be a personal or political issue, is heard and given attention.
Every time you advocate for something, you make an impact, even if it only affects one person. I am going to keep on advocating for national service as a District Captain because every person counts.