Amid the bustle of staffers fielding calls from concerned constituents, surrounded by framed images of the senator, North Carolina peanuts and guides to the best Tar Heel barbeque, members of the GW College Democrats waited in the office of Senator Kay Hagan, D-N.C., office to voice their concerns on the health care reform debate consuming much of the country's attention.
With the Senate ready to begin tackling health care legislation in the coming month, members of the CDs Advocacy Team visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday to ensure that the voice of college students would be heard in the highly anticipated debate.
About 12 Democrats from GW met with legislative correspondents from the offices of Senators Hagan and Mark Warner, D-Va., to discuss what they believe should be included in the bill to help members of their generation.
Political Affairs Director Emma Carpenter, a sophomore, said the advocacy team was a new idea started this year to connect members of the CDs with members of Congress and give students the opportunity to gain practical lobbying experience.
"It gives students a chance to feel like their opinion matters and that their voice is being heard," she said. "We want to empower our members and let them see that they can bring change to our country."
To prepare for the meetings, members meet and come up with an "ask," a specific objective they want to persuade the member of Congress to do.
The ask for Wednesday's visit revolved around making sure college students benefit from the health care bill, specifically targeting what Carpenter described as the need for students to remain on their parents' insurance until the age of 27, a provision included in the bill the House recently passed.
"If we keep our ask simple and we speak from our experience as students, I think our message will resonate with members of Congress," Carpenter said.
Armed with talking points and a desire to voice the opinion of their friends and peers, the CD Advocacy Team met with the senators' staff members looking to convince the senators to support the a health care bill that would address the needs of college students.
"We're trying to represent our age group. Lobbyists are generally much older, so this was a great experience for our generation to speak out. We wanted to really represent our interests because this is an issue that will greatly affect us," sophomore Alex Conlan said.
Emerging from the meeting, which barred media, with smiles, the young lobbyists said they thought the chance to work towards enacting change and the practical experience gained made the meeting a success.
Sophomore Ben Wagner said the lessons learned from the meeting will help with future lobbying efforts.
"Understanding that you have to be on your game, because the person we met with is an expert on every piece of health care legislation, is important. You can't just make empty claims to be successful," he said.
Future meetings to lobby on health care reform as well as LGBT rights issues are in the works for the Advocacy Team. Carpenter said with the training and lobbying sessions will give members a leg up in future job interviews.
"Being able to say 'I have lobbied on Capitol Hill' will prove to be beneficial in job interviews," she said. "A straight political science degree isn't impressive, but being able to say you lobbied is very impressive."