Student Advocates in Action
We are Educating and Advocating
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Everyone Matters: Dignity and Safety for Transgender and Transsexual People
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For information about voting and how to contact your district representatives please visit: www.wheredoivotema.com
Learn about issues the transgender community face:
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Advocating for Children with Special Needs
To celebrate Valentines' Day, Wheelock College's fourth cohort of Singapore students led a special event, taking to the streets on February 10th to advocate for children with special needs. Here's what Pei Lin, a student member of Cohort 4, had to say about the event:
"We distributed pinwheels we made by hand, each printed with the message We advocate loving young children with special needs this Valentines' Day - Wheelock College Singapore. Each time we handed out a pinwheel to a member of the public along Singapore's Orchard Road shopping district, we shared with them our thoughts about children with special needs, and our ideas of their role in our society. Although this was not a big project, we as a cohort are very proud and glad that we stood up and spoke up together. For many of us, the experience taught us that advocacy isn't all that difficult - we just need to take the first step, big or small as it may be."
-- Pei Lin, Wheelock Singapore Student, Cohort 4
Karina Carmona: attended Regis College and graduated with her BSW in May 2010. She was accepted into the Advanced Standing Program at Wheelock College and will be graduating with a Master's degree in Social Work in May 2011.
Ellia Cohen: on a MSW track at Wheelock College focused on food justice issues. She is interning with the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) where she is doing a local food assessment and starting a food justice initiative in CHA's Malden site.
Allison Heston: graduated from Wheelock College with a double major in Social Work and Human Growth and Development with a minor in Psychology. She is currently interning at Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) and working at Franciscan Hospital For Children on the Community Based Acute Treatment (CBAT) unit.
Christina Illarmo: an indigenous activist striving for peace and justice in Guahan, the U.S. Territory of Guam. She has traveled across the country to educate groups on the impacts of hyper-militarization in the Pacific and began the first counter military recruitment campaign in Micronesia by bringing truth-in-recruiting to a region with the highest enlistment rates in the nation.
Samantha Pepka: a graduate student at Wheelock College in the Advanced Standing Master of Social Work program. Sam has always been interested in human rights; however her passion for policy was inspired during her undergraduate internship at the National Association of Social Workers Massachusetts Chapter.
Shelana Simon: was born in a small village in Guyana, South America, that is where her sense of community and a love for the elderly and children was born. She earned her undergraduate degree at Johnson and Wales University and since then has worked with juveniles, mental ill children and adults in New York and Massachusetts. Her decision to enter the social work field was motivated by an innate desire to empower disadvantage members of our society to improve their quality of level.
Who do we advocate for?
As a group, we are advocating on behalf of the transgender community. Transgender individuals face daily discrimination and prejudice, which affects all parts of life: employment, housing, health services, legal documents, poverty. Not only does this affect all parts of life, discrimination also results in harassment and even violence. Currently, the transgender community does not have legal protection against unfair discrimination, which is why we are advocating on behalf of the Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Bill. This bill will add to Massachusetts non-discrimination statute and will amend existing hate crime laws to protect transgender people. Just like it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of age, race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation, this law will add "gender identity or expression" to that list of classes protected by the current law. Every human being has the right to feel safe and know that when their dignity and rights are compromised, then they have the right to legal recourse!
What does transgender mean?
According to the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (2005), transgender refers to persons whose gender identity or gender expression differs from their sex at birth.
What are we doing?
- We had an educational film night on the Wheelock College campus and showed a film called "Southern Comfort." The film is a documentary that directly follows the last year of a female to male transgendered person named Robert Eads, whom discovers that he is dying of ovarian cancer. He is turned away by more than two dozen doctors because they feared that if they served a transgendered patient that it could negatively impact their practice. The film is based on a true story and shed light on some of the disparities a transgender person faces within the health care system. Following the film, we had a Q&A session and open discussion about the transgender community and how students can make an impact in and outside of Wheelock.
- We have created a resource pamphlet that includes relevant information pertinent to: social workers, other helping professionals, the Wheelock community, and transgender individuals; the resource guide highlights the most valuable information that consumers and providers can put into practice Click here to view the resource pamphlet created by the students.
- In order to bolster human rights and challenge the rampant discrimination the transgender community faces on a daily basis, our group has created a campaign to raise awareness of the crucial need for support of the MA Transgender Equal Rights Bill. Through our connections with the National Association of Social Workers - Massachusetts Chapter and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, we educated ourselves on the impacts this law would make and have actively sought support and encouraged political action throughout the Wheelock campus. We have presented in classrooms and provided our peers with materials to make them effective advocates on behalf of this bill, including information on how to contact their legislators to gain their support.
Advocating for ABCD Funding
Graduate student at Wheelock College in the advanced standing masters in social work program. Dayna is originally from Vermont but have been living in Boston for the past five years attending Wheelock, undergrad and grad.
Who does she advocate for:
"I am currently interning at ABCD (Action for Boston Community Development) the Parker Hill/Fenway neighborhood site. CSBG (Community Service Block Grants) provides ABCD with over half of their funding and that is how the 10 neighborhood sites in Boston are run. The sites provide fuel assistance, food pantry, summer jobs for low-income youth, Mass health and Food stamp application services, immigration services, ESOL programs, and much more. So as you can see ABCD does a lot of great work in the low income communities within Boston. In Obama's state of the union and 2012 budget he plans on cutting CSBG funding in half which would essentially cut the majority of our funding and force some, if not all neighborhood sites to close. Obviously, this has been devastating to the staff at ABCD but mostly the staff is concerned for the 80,000 families that ABCD serves every year. "
What did Dayna do?
She got the word out with specific directions on how to advocate for ABCD:
1) We need letters from individuals who understand the importance of community action programs. As helping professionals we all know the importance of these community agencies and the implications of closing them. Please write a letter yourself and/or find others who can write these letters and send them via email. Please include your name, address, and phone number in the letter. If you need help writing them, please feel free to contact me.
2) Attached is a petition. Please connect with those in the community who value our services. Bring it with you to school, church, family, your community, etc and have everyone that cares about community action programs sign it and return them to our offices.
3) Sign and distribute our online petition found at http://www.capworks.org. You can find up to date information about these cuts on that website. Post this link in facebook and have your friends sign the petition as well.
For more information about ABCD please visit: http://www.bostonabcd.org/
For more information about MASSCAP please visit: http://www.masscap.org/
Advocating for Student Financial Aid
Wheelock students attended the annual Student Financial Aid Advocacy Day, sponsored by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM).
Nearly 140 participants representing 20 schools went to the State House to ask legislators for their continued support of financial aid, particularly in this challenging economic environment.
Four Wheelock students attended the event, visiting Senator Steven Tolman and Representative Gloria Fox, state legislators in Wheelock's district. The students (pictured in Sen. Tolman's office) were: Monique Brunner (2012, major: Juvenile Justice and Youth Advocacy), Cassandra Tavaras (2011, major: Human Development) , Jennifer Corcoran (2012, Graduate program: Master of Social Work MSW), and Brittany Wheaton (2011 major: American Studies Focus on Race & Minority Groups, minor in Juvenile Justice and Youth Advocacy) .
What did they say about the event:
"Amidst all that is occurring in the political world, I felt empowered and privileged to be able to walk into my State House, and speak up and out for a cause I believe in," said Brittany Wheaton, Wheelock Black Student Union-Ujima President. "Over the last few week, the news has covered several international stories that exhibit the struggle other people are facing in their attempt to 'speak up.' With this in mind, I not only attended the financial Day for the Wheelock community, but for the millions of other global students who only dream, or fight for the educational opportunities Wheelock has so generously supplied."
"I thought the event was wonderful," said Wheelock student Cassandra Tavaras. "It is evident that students care about the ability to continue getting a good education and have the passion to personally speak to their legislators. I am glad that this event gave students the opportunity to get involved in politics and advocacy; many people do not think that having a simple conversation with a legislator or policymaker is important enough to make a difference, but this event shows that making a connection with a legislator and talking about your own experiences and why this issue is important is one of the most powerful methods of advocacy. I am glad that I had the opportunity to represent Wheelock and my position on the budget cuts for financial aid."
What did they do:
The students were rallied by House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and the Co-chairs of the Higher Education Committee, Senator Michael Moore (D-Worcester) and Representative Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland). All of them spoke of the importance of higher education, and how personal visits to the State House make a huge impact, putting a "face" to line item.
Afterwards, the students fanned out across the State House, making appeals for continued support, leaving behind thank you cards and a small token of gratitude, home baked cookies, which are always appreciated by staff!
Click here to see what the students gave to the offices of Senator Steven Tolman and Representative Gloria Fox.
Click here to visit AICUM's Take Action.
For more information about AICUM: please visit: http://www.masscolleges.org