The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

TCC student leaders take Austin

Photo by Alex Hoben/The Collegian
Photo by Alex Hoben/The Collegian

ALEX HOBEN
editor-in-chief
alexandra.hoben@my.tccd.edu

On a crisp Thursday morning at 4:30 a.m., TCC student leaders gathered together to embark on a trip to Austin to question the representatives of their county, or at least the teams of those representatives, at the Texas State Capitol.

Community College Day is a chance for community college students across the state to take a trip to Austin to meet with Texas House and Senate members and ask about problems they see in their community and discuss possible solutions through legislation.

It’s also an opportunity for the students to get an up-close look at what the legislative process is and learn what issues are the most important for the people serving them in their state government.

The journey started with a three-hour-long drive to Austin from TR Campus at 5 a.m.. On the way there, the students, most of which were SGA officers from across the district, discussed the questions they would address later that day and what they thought the day would bring. TR peer leader Sunny Whiddon said she was excited to take part in the trip but also anxious.

“I’m scared I’m going to mess up or say the wrong words in front of them,” she said. “I’m scared I’m going to say something silly and they’re going to be upset at me. But also this guy actually represents me, and I want him to know and see who is in his district.”

Whiddon said that as a young queer individual, she has a unique perspective that deserves to be heard. She planned to ask questions regarding public transportation, city infrastructure and queer topics. NE SGA parliamentarian Abiskar Thapaliya shared Whiddon’s sentiment.

“I’m just excited to be here,” he said. “It’s 6:04 in the morning, January 26 and everything’s dark. We’re on the highway, excited to be in Austin, meet new people, ready to have fun.”

The event itself included meetings throughout the day with representatives or their teams, as well as a rally in front of the Capitol to kick things off. There, students from community colleges around the state all stood together. 

NE student development services director Cara Walker, who was one of the advisers for the event, said  it was vice chancellor emeritus Bill Lace who coordinated across the campuses to bring this trip to fruition.

“It happens every other year during the Texas legislative session,” she said. “So I’ve been a couple times before this. It’s always great to see students to be able to interact with our government officials. So we all coordinate together all the student activities offices and the directors of student development services to gather student leaders to be a part of this.”

Walker said she loved seeing the interaction between all the campuses and that seeing the students at the rally with the other community colleges was a proud moment for her.

But many students on the trip didn’t actually meet with the person they were scheduled to meet with but rather varying members of their staff. NE SGA Treasurer Tomy Huynh, who was meant to meet Rep. Stephanie Klick, said he was disappointed because he had questions he had been looking to ask. According to Huynh, she had left right before their scheduled meeting time.

“We did see her at one point, but she had put her coat on and then had her bag and everything and just straight up left,” he said.

Huynh instead met with her staff and talked about issues such as health care for all, but he said some of the answers he got weren’t the best because they weren’t from Klick herself.

TR SGA vice president Grace Kadia-Riccardi also couldn’t meet with her representative, Sen. Kelly Hancock. She said she was incredibly prepared for this meeting but was instead met with a wall.

“I was really excited to meet with the representative, Mr. Hancock himself,” Kadia-Riccardi said. “I was really thinking that I was going to press him with all these questions that I had about specific inconsistencies with his bills. So when I went to his office, I heard him behind the little wall and I was like ‘OK, cool. We’re actually gonna meet him.’ A lot of people hadn’t been meeting him.”

Instead, she said she met with his policy adviser, who would not answer the questions posed to him because he didn’t want to speak on Hancock’s behalf.

“I had five questions. I got the answers to maybe two of them,” she said.

She said what discouraged her the most was the feeling of disrespect she got from the staff and the experience as a whole.

“These are the people that are sitting in our government right now, and they’re not supporting community college students,” Kadia-Riccardi said. “So it just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Some students did get to meet their representatives, though. Whiddon  said while his representative was a genuinely funny guy, the conversation focused more on specific bills rather than change. However, the overall experience was incredibly fun.

“I was expecting to be more bored, to be honest,” she said. “I was expecting that it would be boring on the way in and out. But I got to meet cool people today as well as seeing the Capitol and meeting the representative. It’s really awesome.”

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