Last month, students from Sackett Educational Center joined CTE students from Rensselaer and Columbia-Greene Educational Centers to visit the NYS Capitol in Albany as part of BOCES Advocacy Day. Throughout the day, groups met with legislators and their staffs to share the importance of BOCES programs and how these programs have impacted their lives.
“We went there to share our perspective on funding BOCES programs as a whole. I felt a little anxious because they were treating us like we were a part of them. As soon as we came in it was just normal and they were very respectful toward us,” said Maximus Phillips (Senior, Rensselaer City SD)
“We got to meet some pretty nice people, they were very understanding of where we were coming from, they were very supportive. It was pretty amazing, to be honest. We actually got to go right into the Assembly Chambers,” said Logan Charland (Senior, Niskayuna).
“It’s always an enjoyable day. What I like best about it is that before we go the students do some reflecting on their school experience and all of them are seniors so it’s kind of an appropriate time for them to do that reflecting anyway, but it’s nice to see them share that out and see them in a professional setting and holding their own in that setting. So yes, it’s about the funding and that’s important but it’s also about giving our students the experience too,” said Social Studies Teacher Joal Bova.
The experience of meeting with lawmakers offered several benefits for students beyond simply advocating for BOCES programs like Sackett. Bova says this opportunity is important because for many students, this is their first time interacting on this level.
“We don’t always hang out in places like the Capitol where decisions are made, but it’s good to see that our experiences are important and that we can advocate for ourselves and what we have to say is not only important but can influence what happens.”
PJ Schaffer (Senior, Shenendehowa) says after her positive experience, she wants to make sure future students have the same opportunities that she did.
“I think it just really affirmed how important it is to not only for advocate for myself but since I’m leaving Sackett to advocate for other people who will continue to come here.
Sackett has helped me so much I want it to continue to help other people so they can be successful as well.”
Schaffer has been accepted into eight colleges at the time of this writing hoping to study film. She’s worked teaching drama to elementary school students for several years and just landed her first paid job.
Bova said his students served as positive ambassadors for BOCES programs and hopes their visit to the Capitol encourages legislators to think beyond the numbers.
“All our students shared pretty personal stories about their experiences, and I think it’s good for lawmakers to hear that because they look at things on paper and they talk dollars, but it’s important to remember there are human beings behind those decisions and how it does actually impact real people.”