Throughout my experience at the University of South Carolina, my overall goal was to create spaces and prioritize representation for underrepresented communities. Particularly, I set out to answer the question "How can we make the COMPLETE college experience (experiential learning, study abroad, campus involvement, etc) accessible and readily available for first-generation college students by way of public policy?"
Despite being a part of almost everything I could think of during my college career, I had to encounter many barriers that many of my peers didn't have to face because of being a first generation college student. In order to complete my practicum experience to progress in my degree program, I had to work an unpaid internship and take out a loan to cover my summer housing and expenses. I didn't study abroad until the second semester of my senior year and even then, I had to crowdfund in order for my trip to be possible. These experiences as well as countless others are commonplace for first-generation college students and often hinder us from participating in the fullness of what college has to offer.
Towards the end of my college experience, I fell in love with public policy and civic engagement as methods of solving problems and creating positive change. Knowing this, during my senior year, I joined UofSC's Congressional Advisory Board to advocate directly on behalf of students through comprising an extensive research report to present to the South Carolina delegation in United States Congress. My specific area of research was in first-generation student advocacy where I discussed how federal policy could better support first-gen students.
In my research, I looked up impactful pieces of federal legislation that could aid in improving the lives of first-generation college students. Through my findings, I pinpointed three pieces of legislation to recommend to the South Carolina delegation that included (all quotes are taken directly from my research):
As college students at a large institutions such as UofSC, it's easy to feel like just a number and like there's no way to create widespread impactful change. However, there are several realistic ways to make a difference utilizing the platform you already have. During my time in Washington D.C, I learned that many legislators want to hear what their constituents are going through and what they care about which is why it's so important for college students to raise their voices and share what's important to them through:
First-generation college students make up 18% of the University of South Carolina's population and with campus being less that a minute away from the State House and an incubator for the world's greatest leaders, it's integral to be vocal about demanding positive change for ourselves and the legacies we'll leave behind.