The Face Behind a Vote

Jimmie Cotter attended the Michigan College Access Network’s 2019 Annual Advocacy Day and had the opportunity to meet with his local legislators to help improve the state of college access in Michigan. 

At the age of 25, I’ve been eligible to vote in the past three midterm elections, yet I only have a .333 midterm batting average to show for it. Truth be told it had never felt so necessary, for many reasons, to exercise this bi-annual civic duty than it did last fall. Relatively unaware of my district’s boundaries, past and direction moving forward, I educated myself enough to feel comfortable participating in this, my very first midterm election. On a rainy November evening with the task completed, I sat back to wonder how the folks I supported with my vote would make the most of it and began an unintentional waiting game of again feeling disengaged.

These are the specific thoughts that ran through my head as I approached an office door reading “Senator Sean McCann”, the very same name that sat beside a box I checked during my first midterm election. As I reviewed my talking points and the legislative priorities most pertinent to my everyday professional life, it was somewhat of a surreal feeling knowing a vote came full circle, and paired with MCAN’s Advocacy Day programming, would give me a direct opportunity to bring some influence at a state level by conversing with a man in office I voted for. Once the cordial greeting and transition into his office overlooking the Capitol was complete, I took the time to share with Senator McCann that about 50% of students in our school are eligible for the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP), and how vital it is our state continues to fund this program. TIP not only makes tuition possible at our local community college, but as many TIP beneficiaries are also Pell eligible, it makes life possible in limiting the many indirect costs that come with college. It’s a lifeline for the postsecondary pursuits of Comstock High School graduates each year. Additionally, I took time to inform Senator McCann that over 30% of the Comstock community has some college experience, but no degree to show for it, and how much impact his support for the Michigan Reconnect Program would have on a single small town residing in his district. As Senator McCann echoed the importance of the information we shared with him, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps the young people I work alongside every day at Comstock High School could somehow be positively affected by way of my actions in an arena larger than just the school grounds.

Thirty minutes of undivided attention from a State Senator is a powerful opportunity and is one each participant has when they take part in MCAN’s annual Advocacy Day. Heck, you may even get a chance to talk about the different neighborhoods and best restaurants in the town you share with those you cast your vote for. After all, they’re just everyday people.

Author: Jimmie Cotter
Posted May 21, 2019

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