Triple Threat: Three Great Organizations Working on Education Reform in Arizona!

On Tuesday, June 27th, 2017 the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Phoenix were happy to host the education advocacy organizations AZ ED101 and Save Our Schools Arizona.  SoS AZ representatives Miryam Lerma and Jimmy Arwood gave the RPCV Phoenix a run-down on the nitty-gritty of petition circulation, signing, and turning in. (It’s been made unnecessarily tricky – but now we know! Say it with me now: “Near and Complete!”). We were also extremely fortunate to have Anne K. Ellsworth and Sarah Richardson from AZED 101 walks us through the how, what, and when of Arizona’s current dumpster fire of an education budget. (Notice I didn’t put ‘why’, because – WHYYYYY?!??!?!?! would people deny our children and grandchildren the opportunity to get a decent education?! But, I digress.)

There were two goals of this meeting:

  1. Understand the history and current state of education in Arizona including the effects of vouchers on public education
  2. Get the proper training and materials to circulate petitions that will refer SB1431 — the ESA voucher expansion bill — to the voters of Arizona in 2018 so they can vote NO on expansion of vouchers.<

AZED 101 Presentation about the Arizona Education

Ms. Richardson (she’s a business professor, after-all, so I’ll call her Ms!) led our group through the long history of very terrible choices that have put Arizona schools at the totally unenviable position of last, dead last, in education in the country.  We went through the following information.

  • Overall state budget
  • State education budget
  • Issues in AZ education
  • Public school protections
  • What can you do

The best way to solve a problem is to understand its origin and current state. This brilliant presentation did just that. It was as informative as it was infuriating. It was also based purely on fact and completely non-partisan.  They want to show it to every person in Arizona and I hope they do.  You can find out how to get this presentation in front of your organization by going here: http://azed101.org/presentation/ .

Save Our Schools Arizona: Petition Training

The goal: We are seeking to refer SB1431 — the ESA voucher expansion bill — to the voters of Arizona in 2018 so they can vote NO on expansion of vouchers.

To refer SB1431 to the voters – we must petition to get it on the 2018 ballot. There must be 76,000 valid signatures. The key word there is valid.  Rules have been put in place to make the use of petitions to get the voice of the people hear – very difficult. There are many rules and if they aren’t followed the entire petition page can be thrown out! Since this is the case, the goal is to get 150,000 signatures to cover our bases. We can do this!

Check out the training video below to get the exact details what to do when getting signatures and turning in ballots.

Education Activism – What’s Next?

  • If you are an RPCV Phoenix member and couldn’t make it – no worries! Contact Skye Lucking and I will help you get some petitions to start circulating!
  • If you got some petitions at the event – get those puppies signed and notarized as soon as you can. Then pick up some more!
  • If you’re interested in volunteering for either of these organizations, go to their websites to learn more:

Let’s do this!

~ Skye Lucking, RPCV Phoenix Board President

 

 

“Hi, what is this job?”

“Ok, here’s what we need you to do. We need you to make children KNOW math.”

“Wow. Do they want to know math?”

“No, they don’t want to know it. You have to make them know it against their will….”

“Who are these children?”

“Just whatever kids live near the building.”

“How much do I get paid?”

“About $10 every four years.”

“What if I get really good at it? What happens?”

“Nothing. Nothing happens. Nobody notices….”

“OK, I’ll try it for 25 years.”

The script above was paraphrased from famed comic Louis C.K.’s recent special, Louis C.K. 2017. I confess, it’s not as good on the page as it is when C.K. performs it. As a lover of comedy and a math teacher, I love this bit.

 

PART I – Pre-teaching

I never wanted to be a teacher. Long hours. Meager pay. You have to get people do things they don’t want to do and your job performance is based on said people. Sounded like an awful gig to me. I have a vivid memory of 1st Grade Me standing with my friends on the playground. We asked each other what we wanted to be when we grew up and a few said, “teacher.” I looked at them quizzically and asked myself, “Why?” Teacher’s jobs are easy — they just do worksheets & activities with kids. What’s so impressive about that? Surely, any minimally trained human could do that. Haven’t you heard about astronauts? Now, THAT’s a job!

No one in my family was directly involved in education so I never thought about it as a career. My family respected teachers just like they respected any other person and profession, but it simply wasn’t addressed. Truthfully, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.

In my K-12 education I had many solid teachers, a few unique ones and some I truly enjoyed and respected. My schools were based on the traditional “Sage on the Stage” model where the teacher was all-knowing and we students were supposed to sit still, follow rules, pay attention, write things down and take tests. Pretty standard. Pretty boring. (Until the cat dissection in my high school Anatomy class—Ms. Kitty was pregnant?!”) But I didn’t blame the teachers. It was just the Game of School. And I was pretty good at the game.
My university spiced it up with more projects and internships but I’m not sure what could have truly prepared me for what came next: 27 months of Peace Corps service in Panama. The ups and downs of my service were unremarkable. As a Community Economic Development Volunteer in Panama I worked with the local cooperative and with any other organization that would have me. The adults in the co-op were kind and welcoming, but my learning curve was steep. I spent a lot of time observing daily operations and slowly learning how things worked. It was frustrating to not immediately understand what I could do to help the co-op, but there was one thing I did understand: school.

I started to spend more time at the local K-6 school than at the co-op. Since kindergartners scared me, the teachers at Escuela San Vicente allowed me to work with the older students. I don’t remember what my first lesson was on, but I do know that I felt like I could finally contribute something because I knew how the whole teacher-class thing worked. And hey! These small people actually responded to the Spanish I was speaking (I knew I could speak it!) and did the things I asked them to do! Success!

I found life at the school familiar yet at times, completely foreign. Why is the school day only 4 hours long? What do you mean there are no substitute teachers? So, when a teacher can’t be at school class is just cancelled? Kids just go home? They don’t learn anything that day? Why is every 1st grader’s grass colored green, bird colored red and school colored yellow during free-drawing time? Where is the creativity? Isn’t there any room for more than rote memorization and conformity? No music class? No P.E.? No field trips? No science experiments? Why is the 2nd and 3rd grade teacher also the principal? When she does her principal duties, who is teaching her students? No one. Why is there so much yelling?

I was furious at the state of education at my school and felt deep sadness when I learned that my community’s school was not unique. All across rural Panama students were experiencing the same, or a worse, education. I started devoting more and more time to the school doing various classes until it became my primary project.

As I came to the end of my service, I knew I wanted to pursue education in the U.S. because I could not stand by while students were getting such terrible educations. But how? I had a business degree not an education one. Enter, Teach for America (TFA) whose vision is “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” TFA is not just an organization that prepares teachers, but it does so through the lens of social justice. I joined the 2011 TFA – Phoenix corps and was assigned to teach math and science to middle school students in August that year. I was equal parts excited and terrified. I reassured myself thinking, “I know how to play the Game of School. I can do this.”

The June & July before TFA Corps Members start teaching is the cautiously regarded and infamous TFA Institute, a.k.a. Teacher Boot Camp, where they mold people into teachers. I can not say enough good things about how impressive 1) TFA is 2) TFA Institute is and 3) anyone employed by TFA is. We start off pre-Institute by talking about how one teacher can make a huge impact on students, not only academically, socially and emotionally, but also economically. We read various articles that talk about how one great teacher can put a student on a completely different, hopefully positive, path in life.
Institute is exhausting: 2-3 hours a day teaching 4th graders who graciously put up with your sub-par teaching, 3-4 hours a day of learning how to be a transformative teacher from several incredibly patient, helpful and intimidatingly transformative teachers, 2-4 hours trying to create a transformative lesson plan for tomorrow because today’s lesson plan didn’t transform much of anything, learning how to make a strong Class Vision & Mission, a 5-step lesson plan with strong Key Points and Sub-Objectives and for heaven’s sake, don’t forget the Closure! Sprinkle in regular check-ins with your Teacher Coach, sessions on Diversity and Inclusion, hours in the copy room making enough copies for tomorrow, time in the library elbowing people out of the way to snag a set of books that will interest your students more than your voice currently does, an hour or so in the evening with your Curriculum and Literacy Specialists to learn how to transform yourself into a semi-passable educator because you don’t even know what reading level 4th graders are on (Do they understand the word “clause?” The answer is “not usually.” And it would be best if you didn’t use it again.) Then you go to bed around midnight (on a good night), wake up at 5:00am and do it all again. As the end of Institute neared, we looked forward to the conclusion of our 5-week marathon only for our Teacher Coach to say, “Now the hard part begins. You won’t have all of this support at your fingertips once you get to your placement school.” “You mean it gets HARDER?!”

Yes, Naïve Me. It does.

PART II – 1st year of teaching: 7th & 8th grade Math and 7th grade Science

The day after TFA Institute ends I start a 2-week training for my position with a traditional public Title I district school in a city west of Phoenix. While the sessions are less intense than Institute, my future co-workers and I spend hours getting our classrooms ready and getting to know our new schools all in preparation for this year’s students–the lives of whom we are expected to transform for the better.

First day of school: I arrive at 6:00am because that’s when the maintenance man opens the gate to the parking lot. My copies are ready, my PowerPoint slides have animations in them and I go through every moment of the day over and over again in order to help feel prepared. This barely helps. I feel nauseous.

7:55am: The bell rings for my 7th graders to enter and the pit in my stomach grows. They file into my classroom and take their seats according to the seating chart I have skillfully crafted and projected onto the board.

8:00am: The final bell rings. We stand to pledge allegiance to the flag and then they sit down. “Why are they all looking at me? OH GOD. I AM THE ONLY ADULT IN THE ROOM. I AM THE TEACHER. SAY SOMETHING. No time to have a personal meltdown–the PowerPoint! Click the slide, click the slide!” I click and talk and repeat until 2:45pm. I have never stood for so many hours or talked for so long in my entire life. I am so exhausted that I curl up at my desk and put my head down. I get up and go over tomorrow’s lesson—analyzing and re-analyzing it like a bad break-up except in reverse: “What am I going to do imperfectly tomorrow and how can I correct it now?” I adjust, re-adjust and change and change back because it was better the first time. I am obsessed with being prepared because I am Type A and this is how we relax. “It must be perfect for them. It must be transformative. How can I make it better? They will know if I’m not perfect. I must be perfect. I must transform their lives. I must be better than Escuela San Vicente.” When I am too tired to type any more, I go to leave and I see that mine is the last car in the parking lot.

This continues all school year. Once I arrived at school at 6:15am instead of 6:00am and the friendly maintenance man jokingly told me I was late. I’m never late. I hate being late. I feel nauseous.
I have three different lessons to provide every day. Every other teacher in the middle school only has two. I have 37 students in my last period because they put advanced 6th and 7th graders in my 8th grade math class. No other teacher has this many students. Each cohort of 7th and 8th graders is tracked into three different classes: “High Achieving” “Medium Achieving” and “Low Achieving.” The students know exactly what category they fall into and it reinforces how they view themselves. It’s horrendous for the Low students. The veteran teachers around me say, “In our college education classes they said not to classify students this way!” Why in the world did my school choose to do it? It’s not good for them. This eats at me. I feel nauseous.

And then there are extra duties: “Oh, did you know you have to stay until 8:30pm next Tuesday for Reading night? We know you don’t teach Reading, but have a “Make and Take” activity ready for ages 5-13.” “You mean there will be kindergarteners at Reading Night?? AND I have to be crafty? Do you know I am not at all crafty? Did you know 8:30pm is my bedtime??” “Just do it. Bye!”

Also, there are extra meetings and forms to fill out: a form to fill out for the Special Education teacher on the Special Education students for their Individualized Education Plans. “Oh, and are you doing the things their legally-binding plans say you must do?” Another form for the Gifted Students: “How are you pushing them in their areas of gifted-ness? Is it enough? Never. What more could you be doing as an educator?” I spend hours tweaking lessons to make sure I am differentiating for my Special Education and Gifted students.

As if this wasn’t enough, in September I start my Masters of Education degree at Arizona State University. Classes are from 4:00-9:00pm on Mondays. I do my Masters homework on Saturdays and my lesson planning on Sundays. I yearn for Fall Break in October.

I am not sleeping well. I frequently awake between 2:30-3:00am, heart-racing and beating out of my chest because I’m thinking about how poorly Diego did on his recent math test, or how Tina is being bullied by those mean girls because her family’s water is shut off and she is dirty, or how I am totally failing my students with Special Education needs because they got a 2 out of 5 on the end-of-lesson assessment yesterday, or how Ricky’s dad is in jail and that’s why he has been acting out lately and won’t do his work, or how I have to craft something for Science Night next week—when will the crafts end?? I read an article that likens teaching to having approximately 4,278 internet browser tabs open at the same time and trying to manage them all. I agree with this metaphor. I get a new Teacher Coach from TFA. I call her crying once because my Low Achieving 8th grade students did horribly on a quiz. She reassures me, rearranges her schedule to come into my classroom the next day and gives helpful advice. She is wonderful. I call her more. I yearn for Winter Break in December.

January arrives and it’s an all-out sprint to prepare for the state test in April…wait, April? That’s like 3.5 months away. Why hurry? BECAUSE THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TEST OF THEIR 7TH & 8TH GRADE MATH LIVES AND OUR SCHOOL’S REPUTATION DEPENDS ON IT. I feel nauseous. As if I didn’t already have anxiety about everything in my job, now my efficacy will be determined by a single test taken over the course of three days. I feel sick. I don’t take a single sick day. No one notices.

We review, review and review some more. I try to keep it interesting: Jeopardy! Review in groups! Class competition! “Miss, didn’t we do this problem already?” Dang it, they’re smart. “Yes, let’s make one number different and try it again!” The students do it, because they know we are playing the Game of School. This is not the first time they have been prepped for an important statewide exam.

It’s April. They take the statewide exam. “We won’t have our scores back until July.” “What?! I have to freak out until July now??”

July comes. My 7th graders have raised their statewide exam scores from an average of 39% to 84%. My 8th graders have made a 60% year over year increase. We did it—kinda. It’s not perfect, but we played the game and we did OK. Was it transformational?

The next year comes and I do it all over again. I create new lesson plans too because the state changed the education standards. I have all of the 7th graders this year and I love them. We bond. I work hard. My students work harder. We earn the highest statewide math scores in the district. We get a trophy. Are their lives transformed?

I teach a third year and request to have all the same 7th graders again, except now they are 8th graders. They are amazing. We work our butts off. I love them more. We get the highest scores again. We get another trophy. I feel less nauseous. I think they have been transformed a bit. I know I have.

I have been completely transformed by my students and my experience as an educator. I have learned what kind of educator I want be each day. I have learned that my students are the focus, not the test. My students are why I have stayed in this profession for as long as I have. They continue to impress me when their dedication and perseverance through not only tough math concepts, but their personal situations as well. My 1st grade self was a complete idiot when she thought that teaching was easy. She only thought that because her teachers MADE it look easy. That’s how impressive they truly were.

 

Lydia Shelly has recently finished her sixth year teaching math in a traditional public Title I school district west of Phoenix, AZ. She followed her beloved 7th graders to the high school half a mile from her original school and she sees them regularly. She owes an enormous debt of gratitude to every person at TFA and her shool districts for the hours of support and also to Pepto Bismol.

  • “Why are we where we are?”
  • “Why are we where we are at the level that we are?”
  • “Are the programs that we are in where we are actually working?”

I began working at Peace Corps Headquarters in October 2010 as an Evaluator in the Office of Strategic Information, Research, and Planning. During my first few days at my new job, these were the three questions that were buzzing around all eight floors of the agency. And they were BIG questions that got right to the heart of what Peace Corps is, wants to be, and wants to do. As an evaluator, these were questions that made my eyes widen, my curiosity start to pulsate, and a grin start to slowly form across my face…because I knew I was hired to help answer those very questions.

In 2008, Barack Obama was elected President. As all Presidents do, they begin the process of sending out teams to every federal agency to begin its transition to support the new President’s plans and priorities, and to begin making decisions on who they will appoint to strategic political positions within each agency. Peace Corps was no different, and in 2009, President Obama appointed Aaron Williams to be the 18th director of Peace Corps. During his approval process, Director Williams shared with Peace Corps staff that he was asked a myriad of questions about his vision for Peace Corps, but that one question in particular stuck with him: “Why are we where we are?”

Director Williams’ first order of business was to request an agency assessment – an inquiry into agency operations that would ultimately expand upon the narrow question of why Peace Corps placed Volunteers where it did, and respond to a larger question: “If the Peace Corps were created today, what should it look like?” In its efforts to answer this question, the assessment team found itself embarking on a comprehensive review that led them in countless directions that involved all levels of agency staff and Volunteers.

At the time of my hiring, the assessment team’s job was complete, concluded with the publication of the Comprehensive Agency Assessment in June 2010. In my first day on the job, I was given a copy of the assessment, and told to pay particular attention to the chapters and recommendations on adjusting Volunteer placements and on evaluating the impacts of Volunteers. These were the areas that my office was charged with implementing, and they would dominate the next six years of my life.

So, why are we where we are? Well, prior to 2010, Peace Corps was where it was because it had received invitations to a country from that country’s leadership, had made an independent decision based on available funding and strategic priorities of whether to send Volunteers to that country, and conditions in the country remained favorable enough to continue sending Volunteers there. So, in shorthand:

Step 1: Receive invitation to country

Step 2: Accept invitation to country

Step 3: Keep sending Volunteers to country

After 2010, my office formalized the strategy, steps, and structure for determining the size and distribution of Peace Corps’ country portfolio in order to make the most strategic use of its fiscal and human resources. In essence, we formalized and operationalized a plan for what happens between Steps 1 and 2 above.

In building that process, we embraced two main criteria for determining where to send Volunteers: a country’s commitment to the Peace Corps, and the assurance that the safety and security of Volunteers and staff can be maintained. Beyond that, we debated, discussed, and decided upon the inclusion of numerous other data sources (both existing and yet-to-be-built) to help conduct a review of Peace Corps’ country portfolio. These included Human Development Index rankings, cost effectiveness of country office operations, ability to recruit local staff, availability of local doctors, historic early termination rates, and the list goes on and on…to approximately 200 data points.

The Country Portfolio Review Process, carried out annually, provides Peace Corps leadership with a transparent and data-informed process to make the tough choices to expand, reduce, or even close operations in its countries. The process reflects the Peace Corps’ best judgment of where it can strategically maximize its effectiveness and impact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to learn more about the Country Portfolio Review Process? Come to the next RPCV Phoenix Board Meeting, where I will be giving an in-depth presentation on the topic. Details are as follows:

 

I could write volumes about the wonderful energy and amazing conversations that happened during our RPCV Phoenix March Board meeting. Or, I could type a handy list to give you the most important points…. Okay – we’re all busy people. Onward to the list!

1. Arizona Education: RPCV Phoenix has adopted a cause! 2017 will be a year of political activism and social justice for the RPCV Phoenix group. There is no shortage of social wrongs our group could work toward correcting. However, one issue particular to Arizona that needs so much attention right now is education. The lack of a quality education is the spring of so many societal ills.

We’ll be working with local education advocacy organizations to guide our activities in speaking to the state legislature, creating plans for political and social activism, and promoting awareness through events, speakers, and social media. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

2. New faces and old friends: we had a terrific turn-out for Sunday’s meeting! I’d like to thank the following folks for showing up to discuss how we can make RPCV Phoenix a great and impactful organization!

  • Skye Lucking – Samoa, 2004-2006
  • Alex Dreher – Azerbaijan, 2009-2012
  • Lydia Shelly – Panama, 2007-2009
  • Deanna Dent – Zambia, 2011-2013
  • Sara Konrad – Kenya, 1998 – 2000
  • Joan Lowell – Kazakstan, 1994 – 1996
  • Claudia Whitehead – Dominican Republic
  • Karen Blackbird – Dominican Republic
  • Flo & Dave Wagner – Ghana, 1971 – 1973

3. National Days of Action Update: A little celebrating was in order. As part of the National Peace Corps Associations ‘National Days of Action’ – members of RPCV Phoenix met with staffers for congressional representatives to request they sign a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter advocating for level funding for Peace Corps in this year’s budget. (Read more here.) They representatives did sign the letter! Wahoo! More than that, however, this first go at lobbying on behalf of RPCV Phoenix will live on. We’ve got the process now, we’ve been empowered, now – we use it!

4. Social and Fundraising Events: We’re cooking up some super cool stuff. A few that are already in the works: A protest sign making party to take along to the March for Science event on April 22nd, happy hours, Ethno-African post-birthday party at a RPCV’s home, another community service event with Project C.U.R.E. A few other ideas: speakers series to give insight into education in Arizona, a story slam, and a possible house party fundraising event. Watch this space!

5. Intrastate Liaison for the RPCV Phoenix group – One Mr. Charlie Faulks! It was his first board meeting and he left with a job! Charlie will help look for and connect our group to other RPCV groups in Arizona. Once we’re connected, we’ll be looking to pool our RPCV power!

Bonus item: Pastries, fruit, and a bevy of beverages!

Many thanks to those who spent their precious free time at the meeting on Sunday. We’re doing really great things.

If you’d like to join us for the next meeting on April 30th, from 10am-12:30pm, you can RSVP on the Facebook Event or send an email to skyelucking@gmail.com

Let’s do this!

Skye Lucking

RPCV Phoenix Board President

 

 

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Phoenix, Arizona had a great meeting today with Monica.Sandschafer at Rep. Ruben Gallego’s district office! We discussed the importance of Peace Corps funding and healthcare for volunteers! #ThirdGoal#RPCVPhoenixWasThere

UPDATE: As of March 23rd, 2017 – Both Congressman Gallego and Congresswoman Sinema have *signed* the “Dear Colleague” letter as we requested. Thank you Gallego and Sinema! Also, thanks to Alex Dreher for her consistence check-ins with their staff to get updated progress. This is a win!!

——

On March 8th Alex Kassman-Dreher, Courtney Jackson, and I met with staffers for Congressman Ruben Gallego and Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. It was a perfect beautiful day which coincided Peace Corps Week, the National Peace Corps Days of Action, and International Women’s Day. Here we were, three women, speaking to all women staffers for these congressional representatives, advocating for the Peace Corps, which helps women all over the world!

Here’s the secret – and why I’m addicted to working toward legislative action. It wasn’t difficult. In fact, it was kind of fun! Alex did most of the heavy lifting in terms of going back and forth with the staffers to nail down a time. It resulted in a morning meeting with Monica ??, a key staffer for Ruben Gallego and an afternoon meeting with Michelle Coldwell & Bianca Castro, staffers for Sinema. 

Alex had guided us all with a “How to Speak to your Legislators” workshop, giving “10 Effective Principles of Lobbying” among many other tips and tools. We did role playing. Alex, with the help of her husband Casey, someone who has great experience lobbying for progress on many issues, also created an outline for what and how we’d speak in our brief meetings.  We’d taken the workshop, we’d done some role-playing, we’d met beforehand to rehearse what we’d say. Then it was GO TIME.

The staffers were polite and friendly to our cause, a big plus. We were passionate about our topic. We had our talking points set and, most importantly, our ‘asks’ lined up.

Did they applaud our expositions and give full-throated promises that they’d do exactly what we asked? No. However, they took notes, collected our information packet, they listened to the why of what we wanted, and they said they would present it all to those that can move the needle toward a future we want. That was enough – and it was empowering and exhilarating. That was what got me hooked.

Thank you to Michelle and Bianca at Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema’s Office for meeting with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Phoenix, Arizona to discuss the importance of robust Peace Corps funding and healthcare for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers!

 I’m addicted to this form of political action and looking forward to my next hit of legislative contact and want to bring others down (or up!) with me! 

 

Yours in action,

Skye Lucking

RPCV Phoenix, Board President

On Sunday, Feb. 26th, 2017 the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Phoenix held  a “Speaking to Legislators Workshop”. This workshop was one of many events happening for the National Peace Corps Association’s (NPCA)National Days of Action“.  The workshop was presented by Alexandria Dreher, MSW, RPCV Azerbaijan 2009-2012 – the Advocacy Coordinator for  RPCVs of Phoenix and hosted by Skye Lucking, RPCV Samoa 2004-2006, the RPCV of Phoenix Board President.

This workshop was one of many steps the RPCV Phoenix group has taken to become a more politically active and vocal group. The NPCA National Days of action, which advocates for a stronger and better Peace Corps, fell right in line with these efforts.

RPCV Phoenix is actively working to schedule meetings with Arizona legislators (or their staffers) to advocate for the Peace Corps during these days of action (March 3rd-15th). The workshop was held to prepare for these meetings.

Key components of the workshop included:

  • Introduction of participants
  • A discussion of what lobbying is
  • Breakdown of reasons why we lobby
  • Review principles of effective lobbying (which included the infographic below created by RPCV Phoenix)
  • Quick brainstorm on participants Peace Corps story (Share your Peace Corps proudest moment? or Why is Peace Corps important to our nation?)
  • Review of our ‘target’ or person we’re looking to speak with using the information provided by the NPCA Advocacy Tool Kits 
  • Review of the NPCA ‘talking points and asks’ which include:
    • Peace Corps funding
    • PC health legislation
    • Strong international affairs budget
  • Role playing: The group is meeting with a legislator or staffer, telling their story, and giving ‘the ask’.

This workshop was a terrific precursor and preparation for the meetings with legislators to speak about Peace Corps advocacy as well other political topics in which returned Peace Corps volunteers want to raise our voices and concerns. At the end of the workshop members discussed the game plan for when we meet with legislators (meetings yet to be scheduled) which included having another pre-meeting before the event.

Many attendees of the workshop commented that they felt empowered with the knowledge of how to contact and communicate with their lawmakers. They also felt ‘not so alone’ in their frustration with current political events.

The materials included in this workshop were: