Student Trustee Shares Her Story in Washington, D.C.
Northern Essex Community College student Sarah Pachano of Lawrence knows what it’s like to overcome the odds. She moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 2016 at 18 and taught herself English in just six months. But still, when it came time to consider college the following year, she felt she was back at square one. “As an immigrant, this is a completely different system than we have set up in the Dominican Republic, and there is a need to have people at [the college] who can support you.”
As NECC’s Student Trustee, Pachano recently shared her story and why it’s so important to have funding for vital support programs with Representatives Lori Trahan and Seth Moulton and Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren. Pachano, NECC President Lane Glenn, CFO Mike McCarthy, and Trustee Marianne Paley Nadel traveled to Washington, D.C., for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Legislative Summit. The summit allows representatives from the nation’s community colleges to connect with each other and their U.S. representatives in Congress and to learn about federal policy issues impacting postsecondary institutions and students.
“I realized the conversations that were going to happen. I feel like those are very important to have and important to have a student there representing the community colleges,” Pachano recalls from when she first learned about the summit. “I feel like no one can understand how these policies can impact a student unless they hear it from the student’s perspective.”
The AACC has identified 2023 Community College Federal legislative priorities. Among them are bolstering the role of community colleges in workforce development, funding key education and workforce programs, supporting Dreamers, and reforming student aid. Several high-profile administration officials spoke on these topics, including US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Pachano, a philosophy major, says the experience at the summit has made her think about her future and how she can continue to advocate for people who often don’t have a voice. “The people shaping the world need to see people of color as equal, and there needs to be more people of color in those positions. Something I heard at the conference: if you’re not sitting at the table, you’re part of the menu. For a long time, we haven’t been sitting at the table. We need to force ourselves there. As an immigrant, I understand coming to a place and having an uphill battle. We should all have a chance. That is the American Dream.”