February 17th, 2021
GC students participate in virtual Student Advocacy Day
Midcap: 'Our students were such wonderful representatives of our community'
COVID couldn't stop Garrett College's students from actively participating in Tuesday's 21st annual Community College Student Advocacy Day.
The statewide advocacy initiative, normally held at the state capitol in Annapolis, instead took place virtually. More than 200 community college students from across the state, including five Garrett College Student Government Association officers, participated in a Zoom meeting that included recorded greetings by several state legislators and live addressed by a pair of student speakers.
"Our students were such wonderful representatives of our community," said Dr. Richard Midcap, Garrett College's president. "The way they adapted to the virtual nature of this event showed the flexibility, perseverance and determination our students have shown for the last year while facing this global pandemic."
Garrett College's Student Government Association officers participated in the 2021 Virtual Community College Student Advocacy Day on February 9th. Pictured, clockwise from the top, are Garrett College Coordinator of Community Outreach Brandon Jackson, SGA President Madison Embleton, and SGA officers Emma Helton, Lettie Welch, Tenisha Thomas, and Jeff Geddie. Maryland Secretary of Higher Education James Fielder, pictured on the Zoom call, advised students to "let your legislators feel your passion" as they advocated on behalf of community college students.
GC's students said the virtual experience proved to be very uplifting.
"What was inspiring to me was the message of the youngest-ever member of the State Senator [Anne Arundel County State Senator Sara Elfreth] talking about the importance of advocating for state support of our community colleges," said Lettie Welch, a freshman in GC's Adventure Sports Management program.
Tenisha Thomas, a freshman studying psychology, agreed.
"Her [Senator Elfreth's] message about pushing on and the importance of advocating for what you believe was really powerful," said Thomas.
Garrett College SGA President Madison Embleton said she was moved by the messages of the two student speakers – Frederick Community College's Alan Whelan and Prince George's Community College's Jerrel Johnson.
"The student speakers' stories were really impactful," said Embleton, a Business Administration major who graduated from Southern Garrett High. "It made me realize we need to use our voices to advocate for what our colleges need."
"Just hearing the other students speak about being proactive in advocating for needed change was really important," said sophomore Emma Helton, who is in the Adventure Sports Management program.
"Even virtually, the message was clear: We're all in this together – all 16 community colleges," said Brandon Jackson, GC's coordinator of community outreach. "There was also a real sense of campus pride. The students from each college were excited to be representing their schools."
Freshman Jeff Geddie, a paramedic studies major, was the fifth member of GC's student delegation.
After the virtual statewide event, Garrett College and Allegany College of Maryland student representatives met with Delegate Mike McKay and staff members from the offices of Senator George Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel.
Delegate McKay noted that even in a challenging budget year the legislature needs to acknowledge the critical work of community colleges.
"We need to do our best to defend that," Delegate McKay said of state funding for community colleges. "We understand the cost of college and the important role community colleges play."
Ben Reichard and Victoria Clarke represented the offices of Delegate Beitzel and Senator Edwards, respectively. Reichard – who graduated from Southern Garrett High School in 2015 and University of Maryland College Park in 2019 – said being chief of staff for his own hometown delegate is an exhilarating experience.
"It makes it a little more personal for me, working for my legislator from Garrett County," said Reichard.
"I think Ben provided a fantastic illustration of how getting involved in advocacy can lead to a fulfilling career doing what you believe in," said Dr. Midcap.