Called to action

(L-R) Senator David Koehler (D), Nicholas Swiatkowski, Camille Ivy-O’Donnell, Elizabeth Scoville, Senator Darin LaHood (R), and Brad McMillan.

March 7, 2011

Hundreds of private college and university students lobbied legislators in Springfield last week in support of Illinois’ Monetary Award Program (MAP), but just three of them were invited to join lawmakers in developing future MAP policy.

Sophomores Camille Ivy-O’Donnell and Elizabeth Scoville and junior Nicholas Swiatkowski met with state legislators and Lt. Governor Sheila Simon during Private School Student Lobby Day on March 3 to discuss the impact cuts in MAP funding could have at Bradley. Their comments were so poignant that Rep. Ken Dunkin, chairman of the Higher Education Appropriations Committee, wants the students involved in developing public policy on the MAP issue.

“He may not have expected us to take his offer, to get into the issue that deeply, but we really do want to be engaged,” Scoville said. “If they want our help, bring it on.”

Brad McMillan, director of Bradley’s Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service, took the students to Springfield for the event sponsored by the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities.

“Our students were able to have personal interactions with a wide array of state senators and state representatives, both Republicans and Democrats, and I think they realized through that experience that they do have a voice, and our area legislators are real human beings we can talk with,” McMillan said.

For Scoville, the issue of MAP funding hits close to home. She is financially independent and relies on the grant to supplement her student loans. Without MAP funding, she knows she wouldn’t be at Bradley.

Though Ivy-O’Donnell and Swiatkowski don’t receive MAP funding personally, they lobbied passionately last week on behalf of many of their friends. More than 1,600 Bradley students receive the need-based financial assistance.

“It touched me when, as we were leaving, Camille said, ‘It just feels so good to be advocating for a lot of my friends for whom this program is so important,’” McMillan said.

The students are now collecting MAP-related data to submit to Rep. Dunkin’s committee. The extent of their involvement in the ongoing legislative process remains to be seen, but the impact of their visit to Springfield is already clear.

“I thought maybe I’d just be a face in the crowd at the rally, but it was incredibly refreshing to meet these lawmakers face-to-face and get the sense that they really are working for change,” Scoville said. “And to be invited to be a part of that change, it’s really exciting.”