Alumna and PCCC Student Trustee Tabitha-Anne Bloodsaw Offers a Perspective on the ACCT National Legislative Summit 2019
Tabitha-Anne Bloodsaw (’17) was appointed last September to the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) Student Trustee Advisory Committee, representing PCCC.
Last February, Tabitha traveled to Washington D.C. as part of the PCCC team participating in the ACCT National Legislative Summit (NLS), the nation’s most significant community college advocacy event, enabling college and congressional leaders to meet and confer about issues important to the future of community colleges. The PCCC team included Dr. Steven Rose, president of PCCC; Trustee Dennis Marco, Trustee Taina Pou, Counsel Michael Cerone, and Mr. Todd Sorber, Vice President of Institutional Advancement.
In an interview with Linda Telesco of PCCC’s Communications Office, Tabitha offers her perspective on and insights gained at ACCT.
LT: What was your overall impression of the ACCT event?
TAB: The ACCT Summit was an eye-opener for me because I had the opportunity to see up-close the work of community college trustees. There are so many complex aspects of a community college that as a student, I did not know or pay attention to. The general sessions during the Summit were for training the attendees on the important points to discuss with our congressional leaders, like the Pell Grant. For community colleges all over the country, the Pell Grant is a serious issue. More and more students are becoming ineligible for Pell Grant support, because the criteria for those who qualify are so limiting. It was great to see so many community college leaders advocate on behalf of their students not only to get more funding, but also to increase the number of students who can receive it.
LT: Did you meet other student/alumni trustees? What was that like?
TAB: Yes, I had the opportunity to network with other student/alumni trustees and student representatives (i.e. Student Government Association members) from colleges across the country. Over seventy students attended the Summit, which is a record number for the event. I learned that different states have different requirements for how a student can serve on the Board of Trustees. Some students are elected by their peers (like I was) once they graduate and other students are appointed by their college president while they are still a student. In some states, students are actually appointed by the governor of their state. Some students are able to vote, and some students are not allowed in executive session. No matter what our roles were, however, we all were very passionate about the work we do in representing our peers.
LT: What was the most significant moment of the event for you? Why?
TAB: Our visit to Capitol Hill was the most significant moment of the event for me, and I will argue that it was the most significant moment for all the attendees. The entire Summit was designed to prepare all of us – college administrators, trustees, and students – to meet with our congressional leaders and advocate on behalf of community college and its students. Meeting with leaders like Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and Senator Bob Menendez in person was definitely the highlight of my experience, and the best part about those meetings is that I felt listened to. I felt heard. Both the congresswoman and the senator were actively listening and responding to my story, as well as to the concerns we all had surrounding issues facing community college. We were there to speak for community college students, and I believe we did them proud.
LT: I saw a photo of you speaking into a microphone. What was that about?
TAB: During one of the Summit’s general sessions, Margaret Brennan, who is a journalist and correspondent for the CBS program “Face the Nation,” spoke to all of the attendees about the current climate in Washington. She shared her thoughts on the administration in the White House, as well as her own personal experience with interviewing the President. After her talk, there was some time for attendees to ask questions. What struck me the most during her talk had actually nothing to do with what she discussed, but rather focused on her journey into her currently position. Before her talk, Ms. Brennan mentioned that she is only the second woman to work as an anchor for “Face the Nation” in over 60 years.
I got up in front of one of the microphones and shared with Ms. Brennan that as a young Afro-Latina woman, I can relate to her experience. In many spaces that I am in, whether it be in class, at work, conferences, or even in public places, I am the only one or the first one(the only woman, the only person of color, the youngest person in the group, etc.). There is a lack of representation still in many spaces. In fact, one of my motivating factors in running for the alumni representative for the PCCC Board of Trustees two years ago was for that very reason. If you ever go into the PCCC campus Paterson Room and see the lineup of past alumni representatives pictured on the wall, you will understand.
I then asked Ms. Brennan how she has coped with being “the only one.” She first thanked me for “being so brave,” and she started to clap for me, which led the entire room to applaud as well. She told me that she understands the feeling of being the only one, but that feeling propels her in her work. She stated she was passionate about her work as a journalist, and she was not going to allow obstacles to steer her away from that. She advised me to continue fighting for what I am passionate about because it is worth the fight.
LT: What do you hope will come out of the ACCT Summit?
TAB: I hope that congressional leaders and politicians will actively support community colleges, especially when it comes to the bills they vote on that concern higher education. Community college administrators, trustees, and students are doing our part in advocating for community college students and finding the resources to best benefit them. We can only hope that they remember the communities they serve and that they will vote in favor of community college.
LT: Thank you, Tabitha, for sharing your experience at the ACCT Summit and for continuing to serve PCCC so faithfully. Your report will inform and inspire many readers.
Tabitha-Anne Bloodsaw holds an Associate in Arts degree, with high honors, in English. She is also the recipient of numerous academic and leadership awards from PCCC and is now pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Africana Studies at William Paterson University. (Read more about Tabitha)