PHOTO COURTESY/ST. JOHN’S UNIVERSITY MEDIA RELATIONS
Student advocacy is no stranger to St. John’s University. In the spirit of the Vincentian mission, students are encouraged to take action whenever possible. They are encouraged to fulfill the mission outside of the campus gates; sometimes venturing as far as Washington, D.C. in order to do so.
This past summer, junior Irene Gorosave and senior Anna Evseev attended the biennial Student Ambassador Leaders Together (SALT) summit, which took place over the course of three days in July in the nation’s capital.
“This event impacted me as a student leader because it makes me see how much of a difference I can truly make,” Evseev said. “I will not let my voice be put to the side. I speak up for the opinions and causes I strongly believe in.”
The summit, organized by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), aims to educate and encourage students to advocate in response to pressing issues such as human trafficking, climate change, migration, poverty and food insecurity, among others. It seeks to draw attention to the international issues that affect most of the marginalized members of society.
“This experience permitted me to enhance everything I have learned in the classroom and put it into actions. It gave me an opportunity I would have been lacking if I were anywhere else,” Gorosave, who is currently studying environmental sciences and government and politics, said. “We encouraged and advocated for solutions that are effective and concrete for the poor and vulnerable.”
More than 150 students from nearly 60 universities across the nation participated in the summit, hoping to bring the skills and tools that they acquired back to their respective campuses.
Some of the concepts the summit focused on are their “I am Global Hunger,” “I am Climate Change,” “I am Migration” and “I am Human Trafficking” initiatives, according to the CRS website.
“The portion of the summit that resonated with me the most was being able to learn how to make an impacting difference into the lives of other people in the world. Everyone is connected and everything is connected- therefore it is up to us to care for one another and to do what’s right,” Evseev said.
On the final day of the summit, Gorosave and Evseev were able to speak with members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
“The main urgency we expressed to higher ups in Capitol Hill was that as Congress continues negotiating the Fiscal Year 2019 spending, we must provide the highest funding levels possible for poverty-reducing international development and humanitarian assistance,” Gorosave said.
The summit also touched upon ideas that student organizations on campus seek to implement through student advocacy.
“For me, advocacy is extremely important on campus to raise awareness for various social justice issues,” Kayla Soulias, secretary of Habitat for Humanity at St. John’s said. “Awareness about social justice issues is crucial to a liberal arts education and a well-rounded person.”