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A Seat at the Table: UC Irvine at the USSA Conference

By Alexis Cormier

UCI Anteaters took over the East Coast earlier this month as 48 students attended the United States Student Association (USSA) National Student Power Summit in Washington D.C. on April 6-9 to advocate for student rights and participate in education justice.

Formed in 1978, USSA is one of the largest and oldest student-led organizations in the country. It currently represents nearly 1.5 million students in the U.S. and has 37 student board members, four of which belong to UCI. Every year, USSA hosts the National Student Power Summit to gather students to develop grassroots organizing skills and partake in National Student Lobby and Action Day.

Held at the National Education Association building, university students from across the country were invited to attend the four-day conference as delegates for their school. Through workshops, caucuses, trainings and open discussions, the delegates were encouraged to talk through the various student issues that affect their campuses and share their experiences within the current political climate. Much of the discussion included topics like student voting, LGBT+ resources, anti-blackness on campus, undocumented student issues, the fight for free higher education and more.

Third-year public health policy student and a former student in the UCDC program,Camille Alejandro, enjoyed the connections she made at  the conference.

“I loved being able to meet people from around the country who are passionate in student and social issues and making progress in the world,” she said.

The entire trip was funded by ASUCI’s Office of the External Vice President, which allowed the 48 UCI students from various majors and backgrounds to participate in the conference and even host a couple of workshops.

One workshop was co-hosted by External Vice President Zoë Broussard and third-year English student Jasmine Adams, on the subject of Federal Surveillance in Black and Muslim Communities. Their workshop brought in over 35 students.

On the last day of the summit,  students were given the opportunity to protest at the Capitol Building for their respective causes and even further, lobby with their congressional representatives for their issues as well.

Joshua Scruggs, a second-year education student, lobbied with the staff of Mimi Walters, the representative of the 45th Congressional District, which includes Irvine, Tustin, Orange and Anaheim Hills.

“I lobbied on behalf of protecting Title IX, saving the Pell Grant and reforming the Prosper Act,” he said. “The experience was really unique in the sense that it’s one thing to ask the university administration to lobby on your behalf and it’s another be entrusted by the university to lobby on behalf of yourself and your peers.”

Scruggs believes the conference allows everyone to be represented, no matter their cause or organization.

“The value is ensuring that every identity has a seat at the table,” he said.