On Feb. 9, the Men Incorporating Leadership, Empowerment and Service group undertook a trip to Albany to speak with assemblymen about the harm that budget cuts have caused in our school system.
M.I.L.E.S. is an organization that offers the chance for male students to better their leadership skills through volunteer work, fundraising for charities, studying leadership in G.O.L.D. workshops and, now, visiting the capital in Albany annually.
Sophomore Donte Bothel, one of the leaders of M.I.L.E.S., said that the trip allows students the "opportunity for professional development and a chance to see how the capital works."
This is the second year that M.I.L.E.S. has traveled to Albany to advocate against the budget cut. "We want to have our voices heard," said senior Timon Aikawa, another leader of the M.I.L.E.S. organization. "I've already had one friend who had to leave Geneseo because she couldn't pay tuition when she lost her financial aid," he added.
"Not all of the members who went receive aid from T.A.P. [Tuition Assistance Program], but the rest of us were there advocating for our friends," Bothel said.
The group spent one day in Albany, which included a private tour of the capitol building. "There was a million dollar staircase and everything was hand-carved or covered in gold-leaf, it was like an episode of 'Cribs,'" said sophomore member Brian Kingston.
After the tour, the group visited the offices of assemblymen Brian M. Kolb and Adriano Espaillat. The students said they voiced their concerns about the budget cuts to the secretaries of the assemblymen and were able to shake the assemblymen's hands before they left.
Six members of the M.I.L.E.S. organization, which has a membership of approximately 30, went on the trip to Albany. Kingston said, "Some schools bring thousands of kids to lobby, but because of the financial constraints and the limited seating we were only able to send a few students."
Aikawa agreed, stating, "You can't do events and trips without money. We were lucky to get there, but we would have liked more men to come." Though it was not possible to bring more students along, Aikawa expressed a concern that more people were not interested in going on the trip. "Most people don't realize that this affects them, especially when they enter graduate school and they need financial aid."
"T.A.P. has basically been taken away from graduate school students and with all the budget cuts we will start losing diversity on our college campus and our well-rounded education," Bothel said.
The students said they believed that the lobbying trip accomplished only a small goal. "With the financial crisis of our state it is hard to sway minds to support students," Aikawa said. "Our voice was heard and we took action, but ultimately it is the elite people in our state that make decisions and because of that our voice is silenced."