MAP Matters rallies Illinois student leaders

Avp for Governement Relations at DePaul University Peter Coffey advises student leaders to make their stories known at the MAP Matters summit at Loyola University on Oct. 29. (Photo by Stefan Carlson)

The defunding of the MAP Grant in August of 2015 created a swell of student backlash, causing student leaders to combine their efforts to force a rein- statement of funding.

Representatives from various Illinois universities gathered together on Oct. 29 at Loyola’s Water Tower campus to help organize student leaders to rally for support of the recently defunded MAP Grant.

The meeting went from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and was mostly lead by student leaders of various universities including Roosevelt, Loyola and DePaul. EC’s SGA Vice President of administration Estrella Vargas and representative Christian Canizal were the two EC student representatives to attend the summit as well as Senior Director of Communications and External Relations Desiree Chen.

The summit opened with an emphasis on communicating students’ individual stories to state legislators to demonstrate the need for ongoing funding of the MAP grant. Adam Roberts, VP of Loyola’s SGA, was the first to take the stage to stress the importance of effective storytelling.

Roberts shared examples of students explaining why MAP matters to them in the form of short youtube videos that are sent to the offices of state legislators. He then encouraged students to make similar videos to illustrate their stories to those who can potentially have a hand in returning the fund- ing to the MAP Grant.

Shortly after, Nathan Stoll, president of Roosevelt University’s SGA, further fleshed out the importance of making the voices of the students heard.

“Part of what we’re trying to capture in these videos is that this is about you,” Stoll said. “Reminding them of your story shifts the narrative, and per- haps for someone who isn’t currently a student experiencing what it’s like to not get the MAP grant it’s kind of hard to understand why it’s so integral.”

The focus was then shifted toward efforts to reach out to students through social media to raise further awareness to those who are not currently engaged in the fight to regain MAP funding. This effort, dubbed Grassroots Advocacy 101, was started off by Avp for Roosevelt University’s Government Relations Program Jennifer Tani, who laid out the steps for mobilizing students as a comprehensive force.

“I think that it’s a helpful tool to think of grassroots advocacy as five steps. And we’ve been using this as an organizing group for today’s meeting, but it’s something that you can also use back on campus,” she said. “The first is planning, second is recruitment, third is engagement and leadership development, the fourth is mobilizing and finally celebration and evaluation.”

After two more speakers went on in detail about recruiting students through social media and organized gatherings, the summit switched to a series of breakout sessions where attendees were separated into groups to tackle different aspects of MAP Grant advocacy.

These sessions largely reiterated many of the points brought up in opening discussion, though there was a computer tutorial aimed at teaching students how to directly contact their state’s congress reps and state senators.

After these breakout sessions concluded, there was a form passed around asking the reps of each school to pledge to organize as many students as possible to a rally in Springfield in 2017 for the MAP Matters movement. Cheron Mims closed the summit by revealing that in the representatives in attendance had pledged to bring 500 students to the rally.