JCC Students Participate in Advocacy Day

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(L to R): Bonny Scott-Slater, Ethan Starks, and Mira Berkley; middle: Laura Backus, Elizabeth Starks, and Kelsey Crandall; back: Samantha Smith, Sara Castagnino, Monica Kenney, and Marisa Covell.
(L to R): Bonny Scott-Slater, Ethan Starks, and Mira Berkley; middle: Laura Backus, Elizabeth Starks, and Kelsey Crandall; back: Samantha Smith, Sara Castagnino, Monica Kenney, and Marisa Covell.

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Jamestown Community College

Several Jamestown Community College students obtained firsthand experience in advocacy during a recent visit to Albany.

As part of the Winning Beginning NY early childhood education advocacy effort, the students met with representatives for State Senator Cathy Young and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell and attended a human services legislative budget hearing. They, and other advocates, encouraged lawmakers to increase state appropriations for child care and preschool initiatives and adequately fund the Child Care and Development Block Grant program.

Winning Beginning NY is a statewide coalition working to inform policymakers and the public about the benefits of early care and learning for children from the prenatal period through age eight. The coalition’s priorities include high quality early care and learning.

“All of the people were advocating for early childhood (programs), realizing how much they will affect families,” said Sara Castagnino of Lakewood after the hearing. Her sentiments were echoed by fellow students Laura Backus of Westfield, Marisa Covell of Randolph, Kelsey Crandall of Stockton, Samantha Smith of West Valley, and Monica Kenney of Conewango Valley.

The students, who participated in the advocacy effort as an extra class activity, are enrolled in Philosophy and Techniques in Early Childhood Education, a three-credit course taught by Elizabeth Starks. Five of the students will graduate in May with an associate’s degree in early childhood education.

“None of the students had been to Albany before,” said Ms. Starks. “The opportunity to learn how they could make a difference in the lives of children and their families was all the more meaningful when they joined other advocates in the state capital.”

The group was joined by Mira Berkley, a retired SUNY Fredonia professor who serves as a QUALITYstarsNY improvement specialist in Chautauqua County, Bonny Scott-Slate, director of the Chautauqua County Child Care Council, and Ethan Starks, Ms. Starks’ 11-year-old son.