Maureen paused, like she usually does, as we exited the Cannon Building after our meeting with Representative Kildee from Flint. Earlier we were trying to figure out how many times she had visited DC because the number has been growing steadily. Despite its “familiarity” though, I always love how Maureen still stops to really take in the enormity of the opportunity to be in our nation’s capital, experience the tremendous sights and communicate with Members of Congress about her story and experience as a Ronald E. McNair scholar.
This year, we were responsible to two congressional meetings on our own (exciting and nerve-wracking). It’s a nice feeling when you enter a Member’s office amid all of the hustle + bustle and their legislative aide remembers meeting us from previous years. We met with the Congressman for nearly a half hour (which is HUGE) and even his scheduler had to become “stern” with only four minutes remaining for him to scurry to the House floor for a vote! I really appreciated his sincere attention with us, especially as Maureen shared with him her “very personal and compelling” story of her educational endeavors and obstacles she has overcome to arrive at the final stages of completing her Ph.D. Despite the clock on the wall buzzing the countdown to the vote, Rep. Kildee took his time to both listen and respond with sincerity and admiration for Maureen’s journey.
Pretty darn cool, actually!
We receive training from the Council for Opportunity in Education on how to communicate with Congress about our Trio programs and the thing they always stress is the importance of sharing stories directly from our students. We can share with them “numbers” like Trio students achieving degrees and how we are able to do quite a bit with a relatively small amount of money, especially when comparing the line item for Trio to things like defense spending, etc. Numbers certainly demonstrate achievement and underscore the need to support our low income, first generation and underrepresented students; but it’s the telling of our stories that will be remembered and have the most impact in the long run.
I am honored to travel to Washington, DC to do just this with one of our CMU McNair scholars who continues to go above and beyond in forwarding the McNair mission, demonstrating resolve in achieving her Ph.D. and giving back to the program in ways that inspire our new scholars as they begin their own journeys.
So take time to reflect on your own story in the making. Consider sharing it with others who might connect with the challenges you’ve experienced and overcome. Share with it with others who might not have a clue about what coming from a low income + first generation background can mean. Your story demonstrates the need for programs like Trio to provide the knowledge + support + encouragement on growing your education, finding your passion and engaging in meaningful work that will contribute to society in manifold ways. Embrace your story, ride the waves of your story and be excited to see where your story may take you!