On Wednesday, January 28, several Rappahannock Community College students traveled to Richmond to observe the General Assembly at work. Students making the trip were Donna Alexander and Sterling Foster, both of Mathews County; and Clayton Hogge, Jerry Peters, and Chris Sheppard, all of Middlesex County. RCC’s president, Dr. Elizabeth Crowther, and Dr. Donna Alexander, its vice president of instruction and student development, accompanied the group.
Each year Dr. Crowther invites a few students to attend “Community College Days at the Capitol” with her. Since many of them have never visited the legislature, the experience helps them to understand how Virginia’s government works. “Visits to the General Assembly are fabulous opportunities for our students to interact with our legislators and understand the process of our government,” says Crowther. “It is also a testament to our public servants that they take time to meet with and get to know our students.”
After Senator Tommy Norment (Virginia District 3) and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam greeted the group, Delegate Keith Hodges of Virginia’s 98th District introduced them at a session of the House of Delegates, and Senator Richard Stuart (District 28) did likewise at a Senate session. They also attended a meeting of the House Sub-Committee on Education, where they viewed the complicated process of making bills into laws.
In addition to their meeting with Delegate Hodges, the students spoke with Virginia Secretary of Education Ann Holton, Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel, and Jason De La Cruz, legislative assistant to state senator Ryan McDougle (District 4). These meetings gave the students the chance to advocate for support of the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), and higher education in general.
Student Donna Alexander described the trip as “an honor and a wonderful opportunity.” She added a single piece of advice for future participants: “Wear comfortable shoes!”
What impressed Clayton Hogge most was the difference in etiquette and demeanor between the Senate and the House of Delegates — similar to the difference between a gentlemanly discussion and a boxing match, he said.
“From the lessons in government and politics to the meet-and-greet with some of our local representatives, I enjoyed it all,” says Jerry Peters. “It was interesting to see the beginning stages of a bill’s journey in becoming a law … I am grateful to have been extended the opportunity to represent such a great college!”
Community College Days are occasions for students from all over the state to promote VCCS legislative goals, and to remind legislators of the importance of Virginia’s community colleges in providing for the critical needs of the Commonwealth and its citizens.