A Field Trip to Springfield Teaches Advocacy 101

Each spring, Brad McMillan, Executive Director, Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service at Bradley, takes three students to Springfield, Ill., to the Federation Private College Student Lobby Day to talk to elected officials about the need for the Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) funding. Because it’s part of the Illinois annual budget, it needs to be advocated for each year. 

“This is a great example of experiential learning,” he explained. “I coach the students on our way to Springfield but they will do most of the advocacy in our meetings. It is fun to observe.” There are 1,273 Bradley students who currently benefit from MAP funding, which is essential for their education. It also significantly contributes to a diverse student body at Bradley. This year's participants included Sarrah Denton, Joanna Franco and Adrianna Gomez. 

“Students like myself (low-income, first-generation students) are prime examples of why MAP Grants matter and need to be supported by these officials,” said sophomore Sarrah Denton, who's majoring in political science. “This was a chance to get firsthand experience advocating for something I care about. If it were not for MAP Grants I would not be attending Bradley University in the first place, as it would be too expensive.”

The students met with several state representatives as well as Governor Pritzker.  Senior Joanna Franco, who studies political science and philosophy said, “Contrary to popular opinion, many elected officials do care about having an educated public! Not only did they actively listen to us, but they engaged in our conversation by asking us questions about our background. Although they are busy people, they made sure to have a genuine conversation with us, taking the time to listen and also teach us a little more about the legislative process.”

The students appreciated the time and attention the representatives gave them. Franco said the best part of her day was meeting State Representative Jehan Gordon Booth. “Seeing a female powerhouse in action was definitely refreshing. As woman of color with aspirations of becoming an elected official, that was the reinforcement I needed to keep pursuing my dream!”

Denton was also impressed with Booth. “She pushed back her other meetings three times just so she could talk to us. She said talking to us was the best part of her day—meeting people in her district,” Denton explained. “It was great to see that we have true public servants who care about the people living in their districts and not just serving for their benefits.”

McMillan looks forward to this event each year because he sees students’ confidence grow as the day progresses and he is continually impressed with them. “They each have unique, personal stories to share, which are the most impactful to the state legislators.”

Emily Potts