When I first got the email from LIM, I thought “What's even in Albany? Why am I getting an email about lobbying New York State legislators? ... Financial Aid!? Oh yes, part of what makes it possible for me to attend LIM College!”
To answer my questions, Albany is the capital of New York State, and in the center of Albany, there are the offices for the New York State Legislature. A little government lesson: Legislators represent different sections (districts). Our state has 63 Senate districts and 150 Assembly districts. The more people populate a state, the more legislators and districts it will have. "Lobbying" means seeking to inform a politician or public official about an important issue.
Enough of the government lesson; let's get into the exciting stuff! Our LIM group consisted of five talented students who receive New York financial aid, including from the TAP program. TAP stands for the Tuition Assistance Program, and it allows thousands and thousands of college students to further their education by giving them money that is applied to their financial aid. This amazing New York State program is eligible for so many who need financial support.
Our group all had similar but also unique stories we had chances to share with New York State legislators. We all agreed that with the help of TAP, we are able to attend LIM College. We also had the opportunity to hear students from other colleges talk about what TAP means to them and how thankful they are to receive it.
Day-1 in Albany, we spent in a student "bootcamp" learning about different points to raise while speaking
with the legislators and learning more about TAP and about the Association of Proprietary Colleges (APC), which LIM is a part of. APC is the reason this trip occurs every year. It was very important that we went to Albany during this time, because this is when the Legislature creates the state budget for the year. The budget encompasses what the state is going to put money towards, including financial aid programs like TAP. We wanted to stress to our representatives why we need to TAP in the next year's budget and how it helps us greatly.
We also mentioned how an increase to the TAP maximum amount would help a lot, and of course why we're thankful for politicians' support of educational funding in general.
After the Bootcamp, we had a delicious dinner, and Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez joined us! She gave a speech before dinner about her journey of becoming an Assemblywoman and how important education is. Assemblywoman Fernandez is the aunt of Shayna, who is an LIM student who came on the trip.
Day-2, we got to walk over to the capitol. In the capitol, we went through security and from there our meetings began! We had back-to-back meetings with many assemblymembers who were representatives for our group members.
A lot of the representatives wanted to learn more about our school and why we choose LIM. I had the amazing opportunity to meet my assemblyman, Douglas Smith. He represents the town of Islip on Long Island. He had to run to a meeting, but even after he left, we got to speak with his office secretary who passed along what we had to say.
This opportunity and experience was very fun and eye-opening to what the government can do and how it affects everyone. I did not expect to learn so much on this trip and make such great friends in two days. Walking the halls of the capitol, we heard and saw many different groups waiting to speak with their state representatives on other issues of concern.
In the end, I was thankful I had the opportunity to educate some legislators on how important TAP is and why they should continue to support the program!