Tiaona Desourdy made the trip to the State House for Advocacy Day hoping to appeal to legislators about the critical need to preserve funding for higher education in Massachusetts.
"This is going to affect a lot of people," she said, before boarding an HCC van bound for Boston.
She was one of about a dozen HCC students who went to the State House March 8, joining hundreds of others that day from community colleges and universities throughout the state.
Organizers of the event asked students to visit legislative offices and push for a 5 percent increase in state operating budgets and financial aid. Students from HCC split up based on their hometowns and were hooked up with others from area schools including UMass and Westfield State. HCC students met several legislators, including state Sen. Michael Knapik, state Rep. Michael Kane and state Rep. Donald Humason.
"Basically, we wanted them to commit to supporting higher education in Massachusetts and preserving our funding, and if not preserving it, to minimize cuts," said HCC student David Morin. "They were totally understanding."
Even though legislators said they couldn't commit to a 5 percent funding increase, students said they felt their concerns were heard. "Senator Knapik was very friendly and welcoming," said HCC student Cheryl O'Connell, "but he would not commit to the numbers we were lobbying for."
Students did gain satisfaction on another front, however. They said the legislators they spoke to were unanimously opposed to Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal to consolidate the boards of trustees of the state's community colleges, the subject of an HCC student rally two days before, on March 6. "They explicitly expressed their hesitance and concern for the governor's proposal," said Morin. "They disagree authority should be taken from the local board of trustees and given to a central board."
"My own personal reading is that the governor's proposal is dead on arrival in the House of Representatives," Morin said.
For Morin, who is a student senator at HCC and the student representative on the HCC Board of Trustees, the trip to Boston was very personal. "This was my first time at the State House," he said. "It was really an honor to meet with senators and representatives. I was really proud to be there with other students from HCC and from all across the state to work toward preserving funding for higher education, which is so important, not only to ourselves, but to the future of the state."
Upon her return from Boston, Desourdy said she believed the trip had been a success, if only to get the attention of elected officials.
"We really made a difference out there," she said, "all of us together united in an important cause."
Photos: (Left) HCC student Cheryl O'Connell, far right, holds up a banner with other students on Advocacy Day in Boston March 8. (Right) HCC students Lance Hopkins, Eric Boisvere, Tiaona Desourdy and Alex Parker get ready for a trip to the State House in Boston March 8 for Advocacy Day.