Students and staff from Opportunity Programs at Hamilton, Cazenovia College and Mohawk Valley Community College headed to Albany for the New York State Student Aid Alliance Advocacy Day on Feb. 14.
An annual event at the New York State Capitol, Advocacy Day is a time for students from across the state to meet and speak with legislators about the importance of student aid programs like the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), the NYS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), and other Opportunity Programs. The gathering provides an opportunity for students to tell their personal stories, describing what being an HEOP student means to them.
In Albany, Hamilton students gathered with over 800 students and staff from institutions across New York State. Mary Beth Labate, president of Commission of Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU), welcomed everyone and introduced Phyllis Breland ’80, Hamilton director of Opportunity Programs and interim director of diversity & inclusion. An alumna of Hamilton’s HEOP, she is also president of the New York State Higher Education Opportunity Program Professional Organization.
Hamilton students Sacharja Cunningham ’19, Ramisa Tasnim ’20, Cimone Jordan ’19, Brian Maldonado ’18, and Amarilys Milian ’20 shared their experiences about the importance of Opportunity Programs in both their pursuit of education and in breaking cycles of disenfranchisement and marginalization during a speak out.
Discussions with state legislators followed. Hamilton and Cazenovia students met with Assemblyman Ron Kim (Hamilton Opportunity Program alumnus ’02). Kim spoke to students about the importance of their presence in Albany. Students also met with State Senator David Valesky and an aide to Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush.
The essential points were the need to continue increasing fiscal support of Opportunity Programs and TAP funding, and issues related to possible consequences of Governor Cuomo's Excelsior Scholarship Plan.
Other Hamilton students advocating were: DelGado Corcoran ’19, Alexa Rosella ’18, Nora Torres ’20, Karianna Torres ’20, Ligia “Mayte” Mendoza ’20, Connor Thomson ’20, and Chris Albino ’20.