By Destiny Caster and Emily Chang
On March 5 and 6, six students in Lobby Corps traveled to Sacramento, CA, to advocate for a more accessible, affordable and quality system of public higher education for all students in California. During their time in the state capital, they participated in training sessions on state governance, higher education and public policy and conducted lobby visits.
Lobby Corps is a program under Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Student Government, and it is run by the ASI Student Government President. CI’s Student Government Lobby Corps program is a team that is comprised of students who work with other CSU Lobby Corps to speak to state legislators.
The program is a platform for students to voice their opinions and concerns on topics that impact CI students at the state level. The network spans across the CSU system and is charged with maintaining student representation and advocacy in the state legislature and in CSU Board of Trustees meetings.
Lobby Corps partners with the Cal State Student Association for students to go to an annual two-day conference, the California Higher Education Student Summit (CHESS). The conference enables students to become activists for a better public higher education system, as well as network and work with state legislators and their peers from all 23 CSU campuses.
In the time leading up to CHESS, Lobby Corps participants are trained on working with legislation and meeting with state Assembly and Senate members. As ASI Student Government President, senior Chicana/o Studies and studio art double major Ilien Tolteca’s main goal in organizing the Lobby Corps team this year was to prepare them for speaking with state legislators.
They said, “Speaking to individuals in positions of power such as our state representatives can be really intimidating for students and we really emphasize in letting our students know their stories and perspectives are important in helping create change for their peers.”
Javier Garnica, ASI Student Government Vice President and senior Chicana/o Studies major, added, “At the beginning the main goal was to push to get as many applications as possible. After choosing who we wanted to be in our team, the main goal for this year was to inform and educate Lobby Corps members … Another goal was to make them feel empowered.”
Each CSU’s Lobby Corps advocates for different topics toward students’ needs, depending on the campus. “Our campus focused on bills specifically related to student loan debt relief and (CalFresh) expansion as we felt those best reflected our student body’s needs and left behind the supporting bills in documents for our representatives to reference,” Tolteca explained. This included bills like AB 274: CalWORKs and CalFresh Eligibility, AB 1160: Student Loan Debts, AB 656: California State University: Doctoral Programs and AB 35: Student Debt Relief.
This was the first in-person Lobby Corps in three years since the pandemic. For Jazmin Guajardo, junior nursing major, this was her second time participating in Lobby Corps and first time attending CHESS in-person. She said, “My experience participating in Lobby Corps has strengthened my lifelong passion for advocacy!”
Guajardo explained, “I chose to apply for Lobby Corps this year because I recognized the need for students to join and advocate for legislature that will alleviate burdens from our students. I believe it is important for students to advocate for our peers that may be unable to do so. I believe the legislation we advocated for is essential to help keep our student(s) successful both in and out of the classroom.”
“Even if the legislation does not impact all of us as of now, however we cannot deny that it impacts our peers at CI and in the CSU system who are working multiple jobs, student parents, non-traditional students, and so many more of our students and our families,” Guajardo added.
After reflecting on CHESS, Tolteca was impressed with the team’s quick preparation: “Due to illness and some exterior factors, we only had a month to prepare for lobby corps and I am really proud of my team for the way they took on their lobbying with such confidence and readiness to assist other campuses who were needing support in preparing.”
Garnica added, “I was impressed by was the overall experience of lobbying. I had never done anything like this before so being out there talking to legislators and the whole process of getting ready was an experience I will always remember.”
He concluded, “It is an experience that can help you grow, get out of your comfort zone and give you insight on how people lobby and how laws get supported.” While the period to apply and participate in Lobby Corps is over, there are other opportunities to be a student advocate within ASI and across campus. To learn more and get updates about the next annual application cycle, check out the Lobby Corps webpage.