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Four Boston College undergraduates visited Washington, DC, last month as part of the Atlantic Coast Conference Student Advocacy program, joining student representatives from ACC institutions in meeting with members of Congress and legislative professionals to discuss student financial aid, undergraduate research funding, and other issues.

The BC contingent, Leo Confalone ’20, Gabriella Haedelt ’21, Marina Sheetz ’21, and Sean O’Neil ’23, spoke with Massachusetts Congressman Stephen Lynch and Senator Edward Markey; Josh Delaney, legislative director and chief education policy advisor for Senator Elizabeth Warren; Claire Viall, professional staff to the House Committee on Education and Labor, which is chaired by Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott, a 1973 BC Law alumnus; and principals at Cassidy & Associates, a government relations firm that assists the University with federal relations matters.

For Haedelt, the trip was a sequel to her summer internship on Capitol Hill, and an opportunity to put her experience to work advocating “for issues I care about” while gaining a better understanding of the process of lobbying for a policy agenda. She appreciated hearing the legislators and staffers describe the legislation under development, their predictions for passage, and how the political climate has affected bipartisanship in Congress.

“This trip cemented my impressions of politics and allowed me to reflect on my summer experience on the Hill,” she said. “Getting the opportunity to hear from members of Congress directly about their goals and what they perceive the upcoming challenges to be in this legislative cycle substantially added to my perspective.”

O’Neil was struck by the influence legislative aides and committee staff have in the crafting of bills. “It is critical to have lawmakers who are supportive of the cause to champion the bill itself, but first staff have to write the bill and what they include in it has a drastic impact on what becomes a reality.”

Sheetz found the meetings “incredibly informative in terms of the policies that affect institutions and students” and came away with a favorable impression of public service.

“Elected officials go into politics in order to help people as best they can, which was apparent in our meetings with Congressman Lynch and Senator Markey. Their interest in me as an individual, as well as a representative of Boston College, was encouraging and rewarding.”

Sean Smith, University Communications | November 2019