By Jill Spotz

A group of Lafayette students stand on the staircase in the state capitol building in HarrisburgNine Lafayette students gained real-world advocacy and government experience April 9 when they attended the annual Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (AICUP) Day on the Hill at the Pennsylvania State Capitol. The daylong event brought students from more than 20 colleges and universities across the Commonwealth together to learn about advocating on behalf of their institutions. Two students, Dashawn Sheffield ’27 and Ashley King ’24, were also selected among their peers to present speeches in the Capitol Rotunda.

“I am so proud of our students, including our student presenters,” says Nicole Beckett, associate director for public service, Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Center for the Study of State and Local Government. “Two of the four students selected were from Lafayette, which is a testament to our incredibly talented students. Dashawn and Ashley eloquently highlighted the importance of the PA State Grant/Ready to Succeed Scholarships and the significance of their education at Lafayette College.”

Student attendees were led on an informative tour of the House of Representatives chamber floor and the governor’s reception room by Lafayette alumnus, Rep. Aaron Kaufer ’11 (R-120), who spoke about the history of the capitol building, his role as a representative, the importance of bipartisanship, and the overall legislative process. 

Dashawn Sheffield '27 and Ashley King '24, stand in the PA Capitol Rotunda. They are hugging.

Ashley King ’24 and Dashawn Sheffield ’27 were selected among Pennsylvania college and university peers to present speeches at the annual AICUP event in Harrisburg.

This is the first year that Lafayette students were selected among the colleges and universities attending to present speeches. First-year student Sheffield spoke about the importance of scholarships and the profound impact this financial support has had on his educational journey. He was excited to have this exceptional opportunity. 

I felt a surge of nerves as I stepped into the Rotunda to deliver my speech (especially knowing that Lafayette students had not presented in the past), but the sight of supportive faces and the resonance of my words echoing through the historic space fueled me with confidence and purpose,” Sheffield says. “Standing amidst esteemed colleagues and policymakers, I realized the profound impact of our collective advocacy efforts in shaping the future of higher education.”

Throughout the day, students met with legislators and participated in advocacy processes in Harrisburg. The students met state Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-18), state Rep. Robert Freeman (D-136), state Rep. Scott Conklin (D-77), state Rep. Ann Flood (R-138), Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary for Community Affairs and Development Rick Vilello, and Executive Director of the Local Government Commission David Green. Student participants included Brooke Borack ’27 (government and law); Jane Connors ’27 (government and law); Gilad Evans ’24 (government and law); Elizabeth Horan ’27 (computer science); Rebekah Lazar ’26 (government and law, anthropology and sociology); Ashley King ’24 (policy studies); Virginia Sacotingo ’25 (government and law, French); Dashawn Sheffield ’27 (government and law); and Zachary Sussman ’26 (government and law, economics). 

Additional remarks were provided by Chelsea Morrese, executive director of community engagement and director of the Landis Center for Community Engagement, who spoke about the importance of maintaining community connections. Beckett  shared information on the programs, services, and training provided by the Meyner Center, and opportunities to collaborate with the Commonwealth. The event was made possible through collaboration with the Meyner Center for the Study of State and Local Government, with the assistance of Corporate, Foundation, and Government Relations. 

Here’s what several students had to say about the experience:

“I was awestruck by the AICUP experience. Being able to walk into a chamber at the Capitol and sit with a senator or a representative to gain perspective or offer insights is not something everyone has the opportunity to do.” ~ Virginia Sacotingo ’25

“Going to Harrisburg with the Meyner Center was truly an amazing experience. It was inspiring to see a Lafayette alumnus working in this field. I am extremely grateful that I was able to go on this trip as a first-year student. The Lafayette community is lucky to have the Meyner Center as a resource.” ~ Jane Connors ’27

The officials we spoke to were all incredibly friendly in answering our questions and addressing our concerns, and the building itself was breathtaking in its structure.” ~ Gilad Evans ’24


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