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Students Represent MC, Advocate for State Support

Montgomery College Students gathering in Annapolis
Student Advocacy Day on Tuesday, February 6, 2024, in Annapolis gave MC students the opportunity to advocate for strong state support of Montgomery College and the community college mission.

Montgomery College students gathered in Annapolis to lobby their state senators and delegates to support community colleges during Student Advocacy Day, the annual coming together of elected officials and select students from all 16 Maryland community colleges. For the first time since the COVID epidemic, Student Advocacy Day was held in person, allowing students and College leaders to have face-to-face conversations in the respective offices.  

“Representing Montgomery College as a student advocate was quite a joy and an honor,” said Annet Michelle Namugerwa, a senator at large in the MC Student Government Association (SGA) and a Phi Theta Kappa honors student. “I was glad to shine the light on the number of opportunities and the nurturing community colleges give to students that could not be found elsewhere.” 

At the core of this year’s student advocacy is Maryland Gov. Wes Moore’s Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, BRFA, which would cut community college funding by $22 million, according to Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC) Communications Director Brooke Henderson.  

MACC advocates for the state’s 16 community colleges and the educational needs of the almost half-million students the colleges serve.  

In an editorial penned for the news site Maryland Matters, MACC Executive Director Brad Phillips says, “Community colleges are one of our state’s greatest assets.” 

According to MACC data, community colleges are Maryland’s largest single workforce trainer. About 90% of Maryland’s community college students remain in-state after completing school, pumping nearly $10 billion per year into Maryland’s economy. 

“[Community colleges] play such a vital role in achieving economic and social mobility,” wrote Phillips. “Yet, this BRFA would reverse the gains we have made, harm our students, and increase inequity in how the state funds higher education.” 

Montgomery College Students Meeting with government officials
MC students met face to face with elected officials, sharing personal stories about the ways Montgomery College is helping them attain academic and professional goals that would otherwise be out of reach financially.

For the MC students, there were three main advocating points: affordable tuition, a new Germantown Campus student services center, and the renovation of the Rockville Campus library. 

Despite the challenges posed by budget cuts, students like Joshua Albert Hayes and Ian Johnson remain steadfast in their commitment to lobbying for continued support for community colleges. Their message resonates with legislators who, like them, recognize the transformative power of education and the importance of investing in the next generation.  

"The delegates and senators I spoke to, who had a direct relationship with the money that funds Montgomery College, are just like me,” Johnson said. “They’re bright-eyed, intelligent, excited former students who grew up not to dismiss their former education, or their roots, or the home they came from, but to embrace it.” 

“I had an incredible time in in Annapolis for Student Advocacy Day,” said Hayes, president of the Germantown Campus Student Government Association. “The delegates and senators were really receptive to our message of continued support for community colleges. We will continue to apply polite pressure to make sure they continue the good work!”  

Hayes is also the only student on the Montgomery College Foundation’s Board of Directors. 

"MC is something I can be proud of because of its continued support of minority communities, tuition stability and inclusive nature,” added Johnson.   

A veteran of sorts, Montgomery College student Diane Carrillo was part of last year’s Student Advocacy Day, but she says this year held a different, welcoming vibe. For the first time since the COVID epidemic, students like Diane experienced the crisp Chesapeake Bay breezes whistling through historic downtown Annapolis instead of a Zoom meeting.  

“This was my second year doing the Student Advocacy Day, and I was able to network with our state’s legislature and also hear my classmates’ stories,” Carrillo said.  

A Latino Student Union member who writes for the MC Excalibur student newspaper, Carrillo thinks it’s important to be “comfortable with the uncomfortable” while learning how the legislature works to better serve its constituents. 

“I feel this experience would be great for anyone to be the voice for the students or people in their community because it’s better to be ‘one voice, one power,’” Carrillo said. “The more we are heard, the more our elected officials will listen.”