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PCCC Students Go to Washington

Posted December 20, 2017


SGA Students at Congressman Bill Pascrell’s office: (Back row, left to right) Kelvin Azcatl, Saray Calderin, Sarah Hannouch, Ciara Mulvihill, Ase Awari,
Tah-teanna Steadman, Brian Trivinos (Front, l. to r.) Stephany Heilbron , Kelly Hurtado, Halla Yousef.

Earlier this Fall, ten PCCC students headed to the nation’s capital for the annual Student Government Association Washington Conference, where college students from across the country gather to hone their leadership skills, network with peers from other colleges, and draw inspiration from the historical environment around them.

“It was amazing,” said Kelvin Ascati, an Engineering Science major who found the trip to be  informative and also personally significant as the first time he traveled outside the state without his parents.

“This conference exposes our students to a wide range of learning opportunities and to Student Government Associations from other colleges,” said Maria Marte, Director of Student Activities at PCCC and a chaperone on the trip. “They also learn that being involved on campus is not just about student activities, but about every aspect of campus life.”

The Student Government Association (SGA) is a branch of the Office of Student Activities and functions as the voice of the student body on campus.  PCCC participates in the SGA Washington conference annually, with all expenses paid by the College.

The PCCC group that attended this year, reflected a different mix of attendees. In addition to members of the SGA executive board and senate, three first-year students from the PCCC STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program were included in the group: Kelvin, Brian Trivinos, and Ciara Mulvihill.  

“We focused on emerging leaders and wanted to try a different model with the goal of encouraging newer students to become involved sooner in our office and on campus in general,” said Marte.

The PCCC group traveled together to Washington in a van driven by Marte. Also on board as a second chaperone was Rafaella Ramirez, who works in the Office of Student Activities.

All conference attendees stayed in same hotel. The long, busy days started with breakfast at 7:30 a.m. “We met for meals and a daily briefing,” said Marte. 

Then they were off to attend workshops and network with students from other SGA organizations. Every evening, the group reconnected to share their day’s experience and discuss how the information they gained could be applied to their own SGA activities.

“I enjoyed learning about how SGA is structured at other schools and how that compares to PCCC,” said Ciara, a biology major. “We also learned a lot about leadership and ways we can make a difference on campus.”

Brian was impressed by how well the groups worked together at the conference and some tips he gained there. “One workshop focused on how to improve student life by advertising about the SGA and expanding awareness,” he said.

Beyond the Conference itinerary, the students explored the capital with a trip to the African-American museum, general sightseeing around the city, and a visit to the Washington, D.C. office of New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell, a longtime friend to PCCC who was instrumental in the founding of the College.

“Most of the students had met or seen Congressman Pascrell when he visited the College, but it was a more significant experience to meet with him in his Washington office,” said Marte, who noted the students spent about a half-hour discussing their PCCC experiences with the Congressman.

Encouraged at the conference to establish goals for their SGAs, the PCCC group set two major goals. The first is to align SGA with the Guided Pathways initiative now underway at the College in order to increase student involvement. The second is to research and write a history of SGA at PCCC.  “Our SGA has been here a long time, but no definitive history has been kept,” said Marte.

The most significant outcome for the STEM cohort, though, was their new enthusiasm for public service.  Kevin, Ciara, and Brian all said they plan to run for an SGA office. “Before, I never had much interest in doing that,” said Brian. “This trip gave me the inspiration.”