Victoria College students meet legislators during Community College Day

Victoria College students, faculty and staff crowd into Rep. Todd Hunter's capitol building office for a friendly visit during Community College Day in Austin.

Urging state lawmakers to make education funding a top priority and learning how government works were the goals of 26 Victoria College students as part of Community College Day in Austin on Tuesday.

The students were accompanied by VC President Dr. Tom Butler, Vice President Jennifer Yancey and 10 faculty and staff members.

Upon their arrival, students representing community colleges across Texas were greeted with welcoming speeches by state legislators on the south steps of the capitol building. Students had group photos made then filed inside for an interior look at the 125-year-old structure.

Prior to the trip, students were briefed on a five-point campaign to discuss community college legislative priorities and community college funding with area lawmakers. They were urged to ask questions of the legislators during their scheduled meetings.

VC representatives delivered gift baskets composed of snacks and VC memorabilia to area legislators.

The VC group was separated into four color-coded groups to meet with four Crossroads area legislators. The House and Senate were adjourned for the day, but students met and spoke with Rep. Geanie Morrison, Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, Rep. Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Phil Stephenson. Finally, all four groups crowded into Rep. Todd Hunter’s office for an informal question-and-answer session.

Hunter, who represents Nueces County, was personable as he greeted the Victoria College group.

The legislator, a son of retired educators, said he is a big supporter of community colleges but that, “I deal with 181 people (in the Legislature) with different ideas. We have to get people to share our views.”

Hunter described himself as a fiscal conservative saying that taxes are an easy way for politicians to raise money.

“Let’s dream up revenues sources instead,” he said, recommending gambling institutions in Texas and cruise ship dockings closer to the Victoria area.

After filing out of Hunter’s office, VC students were surprised to see Gov. Rick Perry strolling through the basement hallways. The governor was headed in the opposite direction and none of the students had time to greet him.

Victoria College Government Professor Jeff Hubbard was among the group and said it was a wonderful experience for students attending the event.

“I would recommend it to anyone,” Hubbard said. “We met with Rep. Kolkhorst from Lavaca County, and the students in our group enjoyed meeting her. She was willing to answer any questions that anyone asked.”

Hubbard said lawmakers they met with all indicated their strong support for community colleges.

“Rep. Kolkhorst concentrated on workforce issues, which makes sense considering her rural constituency,” Hubbard said. “These folks are specialized, so it’s important we make them aware of our issues.”

VC education student Raymond Mesa said he was impressed with the welcoming nature of the event.

“Everyone was so nice to us,” Mesa said. “They actually care about us.”

The student said he enjoyed seeing how government works.

“Like one of the guys there told us, it takes everyone working together to make a difference,” he said. “It’s a team thing.”

Heather Crump, an arts and sciences student, was impressed by seeing public figures in person and having her voice heard in Austin.

“Being a voice for the college and getting their feedback was the greatest experience,” Crump said. “We were there trying to make a difference.”

At noon, students dined on Jason’s Deli boxed lunches while reclining on the south lawn of the capitol grounds. Following lunch, groups went inside for informal tours of the building. Some preferred to relax in the upper galleries of the House and Senate chambers. Several students and staff shopped in the capitol gift store on the extension’s second floor.

The event was hosted by the Texas Association of Community Colleges and the Texas Junior College Student Government Association.

Several Victoria College students, faculty and staff pose for a photo on the steps of the state capitol building during Community College Day in Austin, Feb. 5, 2013.
Published: Friday, 08 February 2013

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