Advocacy Day took place on February 11, 2020 at the Legislative Office Building in the Empire State Plaza. The New York Student Aid Alliance Advocacy Day is an opportunity for New York State students, faculty, and financial aid and opportunity program administrators and staff, as well as legislators and higher education policymakers, to come together to show support for student aid funding and higher education.
Students were able to speak with representatives from Senator Liz Kruger’s office and Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright’s office. Participants of this year’s Advocacy Day advocated for a 20% increase in funding for programs like HEOP and TAP.
Travelling to Albany for Advocacy Day is the first of many advocacy campaigns the students of MMC’s HEOP are pursuing. The HEOP Leadership Council is currently working on getting in contact with politicians to continue to advocate for the continuation of funding for HEOP, as such programs are essential in providing support to low-income students.
Below are testimonies from some of the students who attended this year’s Advocacy Day:
“Today during Advocacy Day I really got to reflect on what HEOP truly means to me and why it’s important for future generations to come. HEOP is a blessing and I was reminded early in the morning at 4 AM. My eyes were burning and the floor was cold, my bed was calling for my return. However, I beat that sloth present in the morning, threw myself out of bed, and did the right thing. No excuses! I saw the future and the impact of my presence for the day ahead. Even though for most of the time I was anxious and nervous about many things, I still persevered, delivered my message, and advocated for the future of HEOP and its pioneers of tomorrow. That is what it is all about; these hardships are for your own good. You learn these lessons and transform. HEOP transforms you into your best and brightest version. I wouldn’t be where I was right now without this help.”
-Cesar Pinos ’23
“The experiences I gained from this event is something I will use in the future. I understand that nothing is given out if you do not fight for it, and free education will not become a reality by simply wishing for it. Many senators and protesters want a change for the education system. Seeing these senators and being able to talk to them about HEOP, financial aid, and TAP made me realize that others want younger generations to succeed in life. The part of the trip that was most valuable and memorable was hearing the testimonies from HEOP students from across the state. This was meaningful because the students, just like me, were able to voice their opinions strongly to the audience. It shows different levels of dedication amongst us and makes me reconsider what I should do to support the system that allows me to go to Marymount Manhattan College. The future is something we must look for instead of waiting for; every little action will lead to a better future. Thank you for your hard work.”
-Roberto Sanchez ’23
“I was born in NY, raised in Guinea and Japan. When I came back to NYC I was 16 and had no family and did not know how to speak English at all. I learned about HEOP in my senior year of high school, and that was the time I realized there was a chance for me to to go to private college. Coming from a low-income family, neither of my parents went to college. I am the first person to go to college in the family, which is a huge honor for me. My dad always told me three things: First, do not forget where you come from. Second, no matter where I am, do not let anyone discourage me. Third, education comes first! It is crazy because my dad did not even graduate from elementary school, and he cannot read and write properly because of dyslexia. So when I told him I got into a private 4-year college, he cried on his knees. I am not attending the college for myself. I am coming to this school for my family, for my friend who has a similar situation like me and was not able to get in the college, and for the next generation. HEOP gives hope. HEOP brought out the light in me to shine. With this HEOP family, I can rise high, achieve my goals, and give back to my community who once gave up going to school because of financial issues like me. Having equal access to education is important, no matter where you come from, what your gender is, religion is, or what family you belong to. It is important for HEOP to continue and support more students who cannot access education. Today, a representative from Senator Liz Kruger’s office told me, ‘You have to make sure legislators know HEOP comes as first priority.’ This message inspired me to continue advocating for opportunity programs!”
- Aisatou Ishimori ’23
“Being in Albany today to advocate for more funding for HEOP and TAP was an eye opening experience. I have learned that there is more that needs to be done in our education system. It also made me realize how lucky I am to be able to have the opportunity to go to college. As I was saying today, I come from a low income family who didn’t stand a chance of paying for the college I attend now; but because programs like HEOP and TAP exist, I’m able to further my education. These programs have been around for 50 years—we should be improving them, and there should be more funding to help more students like me. HEOP has a great record of accomplishment when it comes to students succeeding. Students shouldn’t have to worry about how they’re going to pay for college; they should worry about the job and degree they’re going to pursue to pass it forward and help their community.”
-Yessica Guzman ’23
“Advocacy Day showed me a lot about HEOP and how it means a lot not just to us at MMC, but to thousands of other students. It meant a lot to me to meet the staff of the senator and assembly member because they got to know what we are fighting for and what we want to improve. I am glad I went on this trip to know the importance of HEOP and TAP. I am sure that sharing our stories with the two staff members influenced them in a way to show that we want an increase of 20% funding in HEOP. I got to see different views of what people think of HEOP, and how much it means to them.
-Luznery Martinez ’23
“Today was a very eye-opening day because I learned to be grateful for HEOP. As the third person in my family to go to college, I knew I would not be able to afford it, and this program was an opportunity for me to go to my top-choice school. The support behind this program lets low income students get a chance to go to private colleges. I knew this program was big, but today I got to see students from many other colleges, and we all came together for one goal—to get a 20% increase for funding. The funding is for all opportunity programs across the board. We told our stories behind applying to HEOP and how this program affects us. We showed as a community how much low-income students need HEOP. It should not be a way for private institutions to have more diversity. Education should not be taken away or a choice for low-income students. We should all be able to go to college no matter where we come from. Thank you for this opportunity to speak out and advocate for the future.”
-Rosaelena Torres ’23