From left to right: Zena Jasenak, Marisol Ahlquist (WCC staff member), Rosie Van Alsburg, Steven Kwasny, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, Jason Morgan (WCC staff member), Davon Shackleford, Joseph Chapman and Mahal Stevens.

From left to right: Zena Jasenak, Marisol Ahlquist (WCC staff member), Rosie Van Alsburg, Steven Kwasny, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, Jason Morgan (WCC staff member), Davon Shackleford, Joseph Chapman and Mahal Stevens.

Political Science Club members discuss value of community colleges with White House officials, members of Congress and legislative staff

There’s no substitute for being there and for a half dozen Washtenaw Community College Political Science students, it was an exciting peek behind the scenes at the highest levels of national government.

The WCC students traveled to Washington, D.C., in May to meet with White House officials, members of Congress and legislative staff to discuss the value of community colleges and learn about our nation’s capital.

Attendees were members of the WCC Political Science Club and included six students: Joseph Chapman, Davon Shackleford, Steven Kwasny, Rosie Van Alsburg, Zena Jasenak and Mahal Stevens; along with staff members Marisol Ahlquist and Jason Morgan.
Students had the opportunity to meet with White House Associate Director of Public Engagement, Kyle Lierman. The discussion focused on President Obama’s “America’s Promise” proposal, which would make community college universal for everyone at no cost.
After answering questions from the students, Lierman asked them to tell their stories: How did they end up at WCC and what did they see as opportunities and challenges?
“Meeting with White House staff was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Steve Kwasny, outgoing president of the WCC Political Science Club. “The college’s support of this trip is a testament to its commitment to investing in and encouraging students to be engaged citizens.”

Students met with U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell as she dashed between committee hearings, legislative session and constituent meetings.

Congresswoman Dingell visits campus nearly monthly, including a meeting with the WCC Political Science Club last year. She talked about the federal budget process as it relates to higher education and the need for greater investment in PELL grants and other forms of student aid. She was also concerned about making sure students were taken care of by her staff, who took the students on a tour of the U.S. Capitol.

One of many highlights of the trip included a lunch meeting with Darrell Groce, who serves as the staff assistant to Democratic Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, and Kevin Knight, who serves as the staff assistant for Republican Arkansas U.S. Senator Tom Cotton. Both staff members shared how they came to work for the U.S. Senate and some of their experiences in their positions. Darrell Groce is the son of WCC counselor, Kim Groce, giving him familiarity with the college.

“The trip was an incredible experience for students to learn how their capital works,” said Rosie Van Alsburg, incoming President of the WCC Political Science Club. “The club will be working hard over the next year to continue providing valuable opportunities for students to be engaged and active in politics”.

The two-and-a-half-day trip was organized by the WCC Political Science Club and Office of Government and Community Relations, with financial support and assistance from the Department of Student Development and Activities.

In addition to meetings on Capitol Hill, students toured the U.S. Supreme Court, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, Natural History Museum, Air and Space Museum, Union Station and the Botanical Gardens.