Provided by Hannah Edelen
It’s 5 a.m., the alarm clock rings. I attempt to wake myself from a much-needed slumber while reminding myself that working with a Kentucky senator for the 2018 legislative session will benefit not only me, but hopefully those around me for years to come. I take myself back to high school: my junior and senior years when I would up wake extra early not only to study, but because I had an end-goal in mind of receiving a full-ride to college. With every unpaid internship comes a sacrifice: the early hours, the workload and the constant worry of ‘Will this help me land a career one day or not, or will this even make a difference?’
But again, I’m taken back by the end goal of hopefully helping create positive change for my home, NKU. I scuttle to get myself ready for the day, put on my university’s lapel pin, black pantyhose, and head to Frankfort.
This past Tuesday, I had the opportunity of not only serving with legislative staff, but rallying for my institution for two years in row. Colleges across the Commonwealth gathered on the stairs of the capitol to share similar stories and be united during this session of change. Representatives from each college spoke about why higher education matters and how budget cuts would directly impact them.
University of Kentucky freshman Cameron French, who is also an old friend of mine, spoke about his experience as a first-generation student. Without his scholarship program, higher education would not have been a possibility. I am reminded of my fight to get to collegeーhow so often we take the education that so many students fight for granted, because higher education is more than a degree.
So I advocate.
I advocate because I know that higher education is the key to economic growth and stability and will move us forward as a Commonwealth. As a first-generation student, I have felt the effects of two parents working factory or low-paying jobs to make ends meet. I understand this cycle, and how rarely there are exceptions to those that make it to college in order to have the opportunity to create something better, something more sustainable.
I advocate for my university because I know that the students will directly feel the effects of these proposed budget cuts. Cuts that could cost NKU $3.9 million in funding next year, and the entirety of our Kentucky Center for Mathematics’ funding. There are so many students just like me that had to fight to go to college and still work long hours to make ends meet, all while trying to maintain a social life to build connections. There are students on this campus that work 40 hours per week while taking a full load of classes and are involved beyond being student workers (to be a full package for future employers).
I advocate for my university because the faculty and staff here push you beyond your limits in order to reach what you don’t think you’re capable of. Last semester, I took a statistics course, a difficult class for most students. My professors recognized that, so they created hours outside of the classroom so students could meet, learn and better succeed.
I advocate for my university because of the relationships that we have here at Northern. Anytime you walk on campus, you’ll run into a friendly face or an event taking place celebrating people. Take a walk on campus and you’ll meet those faces: students from overseas, different religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities, all those things that make us the rich and diverse university we are. I’ve seen those smiles stolen from these faces with the thought of what is to come of our home, our safe space.
Finally, I advocate for Northern Kentucky University because it has given me, along with thousands more, the opportunity to finally have a place that we are proud to call home. As someone who grew up in a home where fights were constantly focused on money and whether or not we could have food on the table, this community has given me more hope for my future than any other thing in my life. I owe NKU more than just a thank-you letter or an alumni donation when it’s all over, and I owe NKU advocacy because it has given me the opportunity to learn and has accepted me for who I am; organizations of campus have constantly pushed me to be a better version of myself and held me in open arms in in times of loss, frustration and struggle.
We must stop looking at education as an unreasonable cost, but rather an investment in the communities and people within our state.
The Rally for Higher Education is more than just advocacy for minimal budget cuts to funding, but a fight for students to say that we will not settle for education to not be a priority in the Commonwealth, and that, as a statewide student community, we will continue to fight until it becomes one.