An Alverno on the Weekend student, Wendy Stallings first attended WAICU Students’ Day two years ago, “I was taking CLD 150 and was given a choice between several different community service projects; I chose to participate with Students’ Day.”
Held every other year in Madison, Students’ Day is an opportunity for Wisconsin private college students to meet and converse with their elected representatives. Sponsored by the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU), the event is important because elected officials get a firsthand voice and face to relay the critical need for financial assistance programs like the Wisconsin Tuition Grant (WTG).
Although Wendy didn’t qualify for the WTG, she still recognized its importance and supported measures to increase financial tuition assistance statewide. In addition, as a result of attending Students’ Day two years ago, Wendy was inspired to take a more active role in politics.
“When I attended two years ago, I thought the elected officials were a bit disengaged. It’s great they agreed to meet with students, but their reaction was less than what I hoped for or even expected. As a result, I vowed to involve myself more than just one day every other year.”
As promised, Wendy made a point to regularly attend Town Hall meetings conducted by her representative, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner who represents Wisconsin’s Fifth District. She began to build relationships with Congressman Sensenbrenner, as well as others in attendance. And while she doesn’t always agree with their positions, a mutual respect started to grow.
“The more you do, the less you feel like an outsider. I saw that many of the same people who attended the Town Hall meetings also volunteered at the polling stations; no matter where we saw each other in the community, we were friendly with one another.”
Wendy was also inspired to launch Project V.I.B.E. (Voting Informed Breeds Empowerment), an Alverno student group that assists with voter registration. “Our goal is to encourage people to vote and take a more active role in civic engagement. The group is non-partisan and our goal is to increase voter turnout, regardless which party best defines your ideals.”
The knowledge and experience Wendy gained over the last two years offered solid guidance as she prepared for this year’s event, which, for her, consisted of a one-on-one session with Wisconsin State Senator Paul Farrow, District 33.
“Personal stories often have the greatest impact. Even though I’m not a recipient of the WTG, I have family members who are, so it’s still a personal issue for me – that’s what I want Senator Farrow to know.”
In addition to the meeting with her elected official, Wendy also joined a friend as peer support for an additional legislative visit. “For many people, the WTG is the difference between going to college or not, so this is important stuff we’re discussing.”