English at “Educate the State” Rally

On Tuesday, April 23rd,  the Education Justice rally, “Educate the State,” took place on Millersville campus in front of the library.  Millersville students and faculty from several departments participated.  Our friends in the Art Club, led by Abigail Saurbaugh, created signage for the event and encouraged people to write about their experiences with education and education funding.

Millersville alumnus Howard Jones (MA in Psychology) began the event “speaking from the heart” about the role of education. Those of us who know and love Howard were excited to see Howard back on campus, leading off this event, and advocating for change.  Howard works as a legislative aide for Mike Sturla, who was delayed, so Howard covered some of the legislative issues, like helping students with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) and supporting higher education, and then Howard spoke about moving theory into practice by making change through being an engaged intellectual.

English BSE and PA Student Power representative Nate Warren then gave a stirring representation of what the lack of state funding of higher education does to many undergraduates.  He roused the crowd through appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos, providing memorable images of Millersville’s hard-working students.  You can read his full speech in another post in our newsletter.

Ken Smith
Ken Smith notes “a rising tide lifts all boats”

APSCUF President and Economics professor Ken Smith provided a cogent economic analysis of the value of investment in higher education.  His statistics demonstrated a strong return on investment not only for the individuals going to college, but also to the state as a whole.  As Smith described, the overall income of people in the state rises with the education levels in the state, noting “a rising tide lifts all boats.”  The PA Promise helps not only students, but helps the whole state.

Reunisha Williams
Reunisha Williams talks to crowd

Black Student Union treasurer Reuneisha Williams followed up with a powerful talk about her experiences in the educational system.

Dr. Nicole Pfannenstiel addressed the crowd on the potential of online educational resources (OER) for reducing student costs and debt.  Dr. P is part of a working group.  She explained how, through the group’s efforts to change professors from books to free online resources, they have already saved students $150,000.  Dr. P invited students to learn more at the table where members of their group helped students to think about the possibilities they would have with the money they could save.  Following Dr. P, Susan Spicka, the head of PA Education Voters, also voiced her support for needed changes in education.

English majors Kat La Bar and Kitty Dillon presented some spoken word poems.  Dr. Miriam Witmer, who watched the performance, explained that her education class analyzes Kitty’s enthralling 4-part poem.  We look forward to seeing both Kat and Kitty get their works published!

Speaker and poet Marci Nelligan was impressed by our English students’ work, as well as the Spoken Word from the group Original Thought. She presented on her grants to bring African American Artists into School District of Lancaster classrooms.  She presented impressive statistics about the impact that art has on classroom performance and success.

English BSE alumna and SDoL teacher Sherri Castillo talked about her efforts to lead LGBTQ+ support in schools, and also discussed the issues she had being an “out” teacher in Pennsylvania, where sexual orientation isn’t a protected class for jobs.  Her careful navigation of a difficult issue was instructional for all who heard–both gay and straight.

Students from Original Thought, a poetry organization under the BSU, presented impactful viewpoints in their spoken word poetry.  They left the audience pondering privilege.  It’s one thing to be concerned about debt, and quite another about survival.

Preacher Gerald Simmons touched the moral aspects of fairness in education.  His stirring oratory touched on issues of fair funding across the 500 PA school districts.  Currently, districts that are whiter get more monetary support per student than districts that have more students of color.  PA is the most egregious in this category.

Skyler Gibbon, senior English major, read two poems by others as well as one of her own creations.

Brynn Raub, an English Education major, read out a thoughtful reminiscence about how she started as just a number in the school system, and then grew to finally understand what education really meant.

Rob Spicer ended the day’s speeches reminding us all of the power we have in free speech and assembly, and the need to protect that right.

Thanks to everyone who spoke on stage, provided information at tables, read original work, and witnessed the power of publicly calling for education justice.

–Jill Craven
Event Organizer