Presidential 2016: Student Organizers Leading the Way in Battleground States

The following post was written by America Forward Manager, Sarah Groh.


With three weeks until the 2016 election, America Forward’s 18 Today’s Student Organizers are on the ground in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida mobilizing students, and generating a powerful dialogue about the barriers today’s college students face.

Today’s students are more diverse than ever across every dimension – 75% of today’s student juggle raising a family, working or both while commuting to class and 40% are attending post-secondary programs part time.

America Forward has been on the campaign trail for the past year elevating key policy priorities, briefing candidates, holding site visits, and highlighting what is possible when we reach across the aisle and across sectors to scale breakthrough programs and insights in education, workforce development and social innovation.

With the higher education act pending reauthorization and the needs of today’s post-secondary students quickly shifting, the conversations our 18 student organizers are having on the campaign trail about students’ potential and real barriers they face could not be more critical.

Each of our organizers brings lived experience and unique perspective to this work. Moreover, they all recognize that no two students’ stories are the same. They are committed to building inclusive and welcoming forums that offer their fellow students opportunities to speak about their experiences and engage with local media, local elected officials, and campaign staff.

Here’s a quick snap shot of a few of the organizers on our team:

Currently a student at The Ohio State University, Mason Hough grew up in Appalachia and faced a number of personal and financial barriers that impacted his trajectory, including his mother’s battle with cancer. Through a patchwork of scholarships and federal financial aid Mason is able to attend OSU and he takes on this organizing work motivated to create inroads for students who have faced similar barriers.

A first generation college student, Chelsea Horne is a proud freshman at University of Florida. Throughout high school and early in her college career Chelsea has balanced working with a rigorous course load. She is studying health sciences and hopes to pursue graduate programs that would enable her to address many health disparities in her hometown. As a Today’s Student organizer she’s working to highlight the balancing act many students manage and what’s possible.

After dedicating two years to service through as an Americorps member serving with Communities in Schools, Tasheka Wilson is eager to apply that experience as a student at Miami Dade College and as a Today’s Student organizer. Tasheka believes that national service programs like the one she served in can create powerful opportunities to pursue job experience and make higher education more affordable.

Terry Green’s first experiences with higher education occurred through a unique program offered in partnership with the Ohio State University while he was incarcerated. This program offered Terry a glimpse of what was possible but once he had completed his sentence his onramps to higher education were incredibly limited. Terry participated in a local Youthbuild USA program, working towards marketable job skills and credential opportunities. Terry now leads a robust local organizing effort in Columbus including leadership, community engagement and youth empowerment workshops. Taking on the role of Today’s Student Organizer, Terry has been able to leverage strong relationships with community leaders and elected officials in Columbus to highlight key policy priorities and student stories.

Many of our organizers have participated in America Forward Coalition organization programs. Others have met us on the trail at our Today’s Student Town Halls. Their perspective and powerful leadership is critical as we highlight key priorities that impact today’s post-secondary students in the lead-up to the general election.

Read our Higher Education Policy Recommendations here and follow us on Facebook, and use the #TodaysStudent hashtag on Twitter to follow the powerful work our organizers are leading, the robust Today’s Student initiative led by our partners at Lumina Foundation, and highlights from our engagement on the campaign trail to date.

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