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We Need to Share Our Advocacy Success Stories
Many of us consider it an honor to advocate for children, families, schools, and the school psychology profession. We understand that our work can have long-lasting implications for generations to come. However, advocacy work can be challenging—an understatement, especially in our current educational and political climate. Over the last few years, I have felt discouraged by the passage of federal, state, and local laws and policies that would negatively affect children of color and children who identify as part of the LGBTQIAP+ community. These oppressive laws and policies have forced me into an existential crisis, questioning my true purpose as an advocate for the practice of school psychology.
I was in desperate need of something to reinvigorate me, and the Advocacy and Public Interest Group Networking Session at the NASP 2022 Annual Convention gave me life. I have facilitated this session at the last three conventions. So often, I try to create an exciting and informative agenda for current and aspiring advocates. However, during the last session, the agenda was not needed. The individuals who joined the session entered with a level of energy and passion for advocacy that can be hard to find. There were so many stories of successful advocacy initiatives at the state and local levels. As many were sharing their advocacy experiences, I felt like a child in the candy store. We must remember to celebrate and share our successes—small and big.
For instance, one person shared how she often played basketball at a community center that the mayor of her town typically frequented. As a result, she developed a relationship with the mayor, who became interested in her role as a school psychologist. Because she took the time to foster this relationship, the mayor signed a resolution to recognize National School Psychology Week. This is a reminder that advocacy can occur in unlikely places. We must remember that connecting with one person can be invaluable to our collective advocacy initiatives.
Another participant shared that they were a member of the nonprofit group Science of Reading Illinois (SoRI), which five school psychologists founded in 2020. SoRI cowrote the Illinois Right to Read Act with the Illinois Early Literacy Coalition, which passed unanimously in the Illinois Senate Education Committee and House Education: Curriculum & Policy Committee. The act aims to ensure public school districts have access to evidence-based core reading instruction programs. Their success reminded me of the importance of collaboration within and across our profession.
During the session, members of the West Virginia Schools Association shared that they were working with other professions to promote a safe and supportive school climate for youth members of the LGBTIAP+ community. In addition, the association wrote a letter to West Virginia legislators highlighting a need to ban conversion therapy. Because of their advocacy initiatives and other key stakeholders, every anti-LGBTQ bill was defeated during the 2022 West Virginia legislative session.
There were so many more stories! I left the meeting feeling charged and more determined. I hope these stories inspire you to keep advocating for educational equity and justice. Let us continue to get in good trouble. Remember, to celebrate and share your small and big advocacy accomplishments. What advocacy successes have you seen in your region, state, or community over the past year? Share them with us on social media (#NASPadvocates) or in the Advocacy Interest Group in NASP Communities.