Notes from the Field: Our Advocacy Intern's Experiences
NAAE Advocacy Intern
This summer I have had the incredible opportunity to serve as NAAE’s Advocacy Intern in Washington D.C.
I am a senior at Mississippi State University majoring in Agricultural Education. In high school I developed an interest in government and politics but always knew I wanted to teach agricultural education. What better way to combine both of those passions than to spend the summer in the Nation’s capital working for NAAE?
As a member of NAAE and the son of a retired agriculture teacher, I know firsthand what a great job ag teachers do advocating for their programs on the local level. What I didn’t realize until this summer though, was just how important their voices are to legislators in Washington, D.C.
In the first four weeks of my internship with NAAE, I’ve visited countless congressional offices. To each meeting, I bring information about The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education authorization and appropriation, the USDA SPEC Grant Program Funding Increase, and the National FFA Commemorative Coin Act. During nearly every visit I’m asked, “How are these issues important to my constituents?”
That’s what it all boils down to. These officials are elected by people in their districts, and it’s you they want to serve. Your local, state and federal legislators have hundreds of issues on their radar, and it’s up to you, as an ag teacher, and as their constituent, to make sure they know about your issues and make them a priority.
It’s easy to have the attitude that the state and federal decision makers will be influenced by our state teacher organizations or national organizations that represent agricultural education, such as NAAE or ACTE. Yes, these two organizations are working overtime to make sure your state and federal leaders have a firm understanding of the importance of agricultural education, but the one voice that truly gets their attention is the voice of the people who will be in the booth during the next election.
Don’t think that every time a Legislative Action Alert comes across your email you have to catch the next plane to Washington D.C. to make a difference. Here are three steps you can take to have a much louder voice with which to influence your elected officials.
Know your Elected Officials - Log onto www.NAAE.org
and enter your zip code in the Contact Congress box. This tool gives you biography, contact information, committees, and staff
Establish and Maintain a Relationship -The NAAE Advocacy Tools section of the website gives step by step guides on communicating with elected officials, hosting site visits and how to lay out a yearly advocacy plan for your program.
Monitor the Issues- Check the NAAE Legislative Action Center-Issue & Legislation section to stay informed of current issues. This tool not only alerts you of the issues, but also gives you one click access to message templates so that you can quickly let your elected officials know your view on the issue.