Despite frigid temperatures and pelting rain, a group of 24 College of William and Mary students woke up before dawn Wednesday morning to travel to the state capital as a part of the Road to Richmond Program.
“We want William and Mary students to know they have a voice and that’s the point of this. It’s a really great opportunity to go to Richmond and see what’s going on and make our voices heard in the legislature,” J.D. Kelley ’13, an intern at the Office of Government Relations who also attended Road to Richmond, said.
The annual program, which began 19 years ago as a part of the College’s strategic plan, is a student-organized trip designed to allow students to voice the College’s views to local legislators.
Students who participated in the program received a first-hand look at what it is like to be a lobbyist, as well as an inside view of the state capital.
This year’s program was organized by Office of Government Relations Interns Kelley, Laura Faulkner ’12 and Lori Oppenheimer ’11, in conjunction with the College’s Student Assembly.
The participants started their morning at a breakfast in the Library of Virginia, where they conversed with legislative assistants, College alumni and a handful of delegates, including state Sen. Tommy Norment ’73.
College President Taylor Reveley then addressed the students on their agenda for the day and the significance of the issues they were about to lobby.
Participants lobbied to raise funds for the renovation of Tucker Hall and a third Integrated Science Center building. They also talked to legislators about not reducing the number of out-of-state students at the College.
Norment also spoke to the students about the College’s financial state and the need to retain a high number of out-of-state students.
Students then met with legislators. Although the students did not schedule appointments, most were able to meet with delegates or legislative aides within a few minutes of arriving at their offices.
“It’s great for the delegates to hear from the students who would actually be affected by the changes,” Oppenheimer said. “By going down to Richmond, we put a more personal touch on the issues.”
Kelley said that legislators were most receptive to talking about the issue revolving around out-of-state students, while their main agendas were strictly monetary.
“Even though we probably didn’t get too much accomplished, it’s still rewarding to know that delegates are open to speaking with their constituents,” participant Chandler Crenshaw ’14 said.
A major component of the day was to thank legislators and the governor for what they have done to help the College.
Another main objective was to foster good relationships between the legislature and the College. Reveley brought flowers for all the delegates’ administrative assistants, and students handed out bags of green and gold M&M candies to each delegate or legislative assistant they met.
“It may seem like a trivial gesture, but when they’re passing the higher education bill and then a legislator may see the little green and gold bag of M&Ms, maybe they’ll remember us,” Kelley said.