Anyone can be an advocate for great education! Yet as parents, mentors, and friends we are not always sure of what we can do to support our students' learning needs. National reforms such as Common Core State Standards and local issues such as school choice affect students' educational experiences and life outcomes. Speaking up for what is working (or not working at all) in our schools is vital to improving the quality of education all students receive.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Georgia State Capitol while the legislative session was being held. My purpose for attending was to support legislation that would better help former offenders successfully reintegrate into communities across the state. Calling on officials, leaving messages and even getting to speak personally with a Representative, I appreciated how relatively easy it was to access an elected decision-maker.
My experience at the state capitol was empowering because I was able to directly engage the people passing laws in my state. This experience also emphasized to me that showing a face for your cause can make a significant difference in initiating change in your neighborhood. Being an effective advocate is something anyone can do, and it does not have to be a full-time job.
Aundrea's 4 Tips to be an Effective Advocate
Participate in Issue Forums: As new educational policies are proposed or implemented, community members can share their experiences, successes, and failures at open discussions such as town hall and PTA meetings. Participating in these open discussions (whether physically or through online conversations) is a good way to find out more about the issue, as well as who the influential stakeholders involved are. Through issue forums, advocates are able to build resources and support networks to have a wider impact of change.
Write an Opinion-Editorial (Op-ed): As advocates, our mission is to bring a real face to issues, policies, and programs impacting our lives. Taking pen to paper (or fingers to keys) is a great way to bring attention to what is going on in your school or community. Writing about personal experiences can not only be cathartic or empowering, it can also highlight how outcomes can be improved. Trying submitting an Op-ed to a local newspaper or online journal.
Personally Meet with Elected Officials: Much like my day at the capitol, constituents can arrange to meet their local, state, and potentially even national representatives to inform about issues personally impacting you, your family, or community. Meeting with officials is an opportunity to bring attention to current legislation that you think could be a positive solution.
- Vote! From PTA Secretary all the way to the President of the United States, it is absolutely vital to vote for the officials you want representing your family's educational needs. My grandmother always used to say:
"If you don't vote, you don't have a say."
It is important to utilize every "say" we have as action that can improve educational access and opportunity for our students.
Social media has made it easier than ever to interact with elected leaders and policymakers, stay current on issues, and share ideas. Try following decision-makers on Twitter, Facebook, and subscribing to issue-related blogs like The Wise Latina Club :).
While sometimes we never see the change at all, as policies reach our schools, communities, and homes the outcomes of these reforms affect us and our students personally. Our experiences, successes, and failures are ultimately what matters in education reform. To ensure students receive the resources they need, speaking up and being engaged is the only way to guarantee the education our nation promises.
An education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.How do you support education in your community?