tally1.jpgWritten by: Kayla Bianchi, ICUF Presidential Fellow

Recently, I received an opportunity to make a trip to Florida’s capitol. I had such a great time that I thought I should share my experience.

This trip to Tallahassee was by no means a vacation. One could actually describe it as a business trip. I had important business to discuss with some Florida State Legislators about their involvement in my college education.

Why are legislators involved in my college education you ask? Well, as a Florida resident and a full time student attending a private, non-profit, Florida university, I receive a certain grant that some of you might be familiar with – the Florida Resident Access Grant (FRAG). For those of you who also receive this grant or anyone who receives tuition assistance, I’m sure we can all agree that we are extremely grateful for it. That being said, the FRAG would not be possible without the advocacy and support from our Florida State Legislators.

This trip was facilitated by The Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF). Participating universities are asked to provide two students who are interested in becoming ICUF Presidential Fellows – Daniel Richardson (KU Melbourne) and I was chosen to represent KU by our mentors. The purpose of this fellowship is to organize student-led campaigns in support of the FRAG and independent higher education in general.

Some of our duties as fellows included writing thank you letters to Governor Rick Scott and our districts senators/representatives. We gathered pictures from each campus of students with our “We Love FRAG” banner and mailed them to the capital. We also created awareness for the FRAG by performing a number of promotional activities on campus. Our last and most important task was to travel to Tallahassee and personally thank the people who make the FRAG possible. This was my favorite part!

Daniel and I met with the following elected officials:

·         Governor Rick Scott

·         Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez Cantera

·         Senator Kelli Stargel

·         Senator Bill Galvano

·         Senator Jeremy Ring

·         Senator Garrett Richter

·         Senator Aaron Bean

·         Representative Ritch Workman

·         Representative Matt Hudson

·         Representative Richard Corcoran

·         Representative Gary Pigman

·         Representative Keith Perry

·         Representative Marlene O’Toole

Each person we had the pleasure of meeting with was just as excited to meet us as we were them! They all understood what it is like for college students to be burdened with hefty tuition expenses and were happy to be able to contribute their time to advocate for the FRAG. On top of meeting government officials, we were even given a tour of the House of Representatives Chamber by Representative Ritch Workman!

On behalf of Daniel Richardson and myself, I would like to thank ICUF for giving us the opportunity to support the FRAG and take part in such a memorable experience. I also would like to thank our mentors, Dr. Arthur Keiser, Kimberly Dale, T.J. Long, and Shane Strum for organizing our activities, facilitating meetings, and for helping us along this journey.

This was an experience of a lifetime and I’m so grateful to have been able to be part of it!