Emily Dickinson once wrote, “why not have a big life?” These are the words I kept close to heart when I joined the Seattle Education Access (SEA) staff and my fellow members of the SEA Student Advisory Board Council for the SEA Lobby Day.
I had never been to the State Capitol, and the closest I’ve ever been to encounter a powerful lawmaker is when I met Rep. Bob Hasegawa for an educational advocacy group’s annual breakfast fundraiser. Little did I know, a few years later with SEA, I would see him again in a Senate Hearing.
I’ve been fortunate to have been awarded scholarships that are exclusive to “bankable” majors, and to have even won any scholarships at all knowing the intense competition for scholarships in academia. I told the Senate Majority Leader Legislative Aide about the financial struggles facing students like me—ambitious and driven, yet every semester or quarter in school threatens to be the last one. Students like me work harder, and try to achieve more, because most of us are pioneers of our communities, and we have more at stake than our counterparts.
I’m the first person in my family to interview for a tech company with a team of Harvard MBA-ers. I interviewed at Boeing twice despite my Humanities degree, and their aggressive hiring of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students. Most importantly, I’m the first person in my family who has had the opportunity to meet with powerful lawmakers in Olympia; people who can change the destinies of millions of low-income and marginalized students.
“You’re going to have my job one day,” the Senate Majority Leader Legislative Aide told me a few minutes after speaking to me. That statement can only be true if I had a college degree, and have the opportunity to pursue further training and schooling. Exorbitant college costs are discounting most of us to even hold an associate degree, and we can’t compete in a global economy without an education.
I’m not speaking for myself when I say that for SEA students, a big life means an education and a chance to even be considered for powerful positions. Careers that are immediately closed to us because of our immigration status, our low-wages, and everything else that prevents us from our visions of success. I encourage everyone to join the fight against rising college costs and make school affordable for everyone.