Florida Senator Dwight Bullard made an appearance on campus Monday night, speaking to students who are interested in reforming the public school system and improving the education that students are receiving.
“We do have a problem [with education], and you all represent not only the folks that can solve it, but the opportunity to move an entire generation forward,” Bullard said in front of 80 students in the Student Government Senate Room of the Student Activities Center.
The senator was hosted by the student organization Students For Education Reform (SFER) that aims to educate and raise awareness about the achievement gap that exists between marginalized students and others.
“SFER puts tools in the hands of college students to impact change,” said Michael Cetoute, who is the president of the group. “We host discussion series, classroom visits, education-related guest speakers and do advocacy for education-related bills.”
Bullard was elected to the Florida House of Representatives and was elected to the state senate in 2012 representing District 39, which consists of Miami-Dade county among others in South Florida.
During his talk, Bullard spoke about his teaching background and how it motivated him to pursue politics. He described the issues surrounding the education debate, solutions that have failed, ways to handle education reform, and what UM students can do to make a difference.
“As students, your role is to understand the issue first,” he said. “You can’t be a good advocate if you don’t have a good grasp on what it is you’re advocating for.”
Students from various education backgrounds and majors attended the event. Future Educators Association, another student organization focusing on education, co-sponsored Bullard’s visit.
FEA hosted a letter-writing campaign during the event where students could sign letters to Congress to voice their concerns about Head Start – a pre-kindergarten program for children from low-income communities – and Bright Futures – a state scholarship fund that has seen cuts in recent years.
Michelle Backus, public relations chair for FEA, felt that Bullard’s visit was important for students to hear.
“There’s a lot of issues and problems with the current system and just to hear from someone who is actively involved in fixing these cracks is encouraging,” she said.
The event was inspiring for other students who attended and were not as familiar with the problems with the current state of education.
“I’m interested in hearing a senator speak, and this is an opportunity that I may not get ever again,” freshman Imani Callan said. “I figured I could gain some more knowledge by attending.”