Katelynn Singleton, Campus Carrier news editor
Representatives from the offices of Senators Jon Ossoff (D- Georgia) and Raphael Warnock (D- Georgia) met with Berry students for lunch on Tuesday. The representatives also met with the president’s cabinet to discuss issues that are important to Berry.
Zenobia Haynes, the regional outreach coordinator for Sen. Ossoff, and Perrin Bostic, an outreach representative for Sen. Warnock, met with several students representing various majors and organizations on campus. According to Chief of Staff Debbie Heida, college president Steve Briggs met with one of the representatives at an event prior to the luncheon and invited them to Berry. Heida said that the role of a regional representative is to be knowledgeable of issues that pertain to certain regions of the state.
“[The representative’s] job is to become experts and to know how to be, kind of, the eyes and ears of the senators for this part of the state,” Heida said. “They have a broad array of things they become generalists in some ways, but then also very specifically get to know us as well.”
Part of the federal budget that President Joe Biden has proposed for the 2023 fiscal year would go towards doubling the Pell Grant. The budget will go before Congress before being passed. Heida said that students as well as the college president’s cabinet were able to talk about how much that would impact Berry.
“It’s a great chance to let folks who may not know much about [Berry] have a chance to get to know us, and hopefully some places where there’s also some mutual interest in things that are helping Berry move ahead that the senators can do for us as well,” Heida said.
Prior to the luncheon, Provost Mary Boyd sent an email to the deans of the schools asking for a list of students who were either juniors or seniors, with strong academic ability and LifeWorks experiences they could talk about with the representatives. Boyd said that she recommended between 15 to 18 students, which were then placed on a larger list with students that Lindsey Taylor, the vice president for student affairs, picked. The two then sent the suggestions to the President’s Office.
“We thought juniors and seniors would be good because they would have enough time at Berry to have developed a really good experience to talk about what it was like for them here,” Boyd said. “You always suggest more names than you have spaces available because some people won’t be available.”
One of the students picked, senior Erika Becerra, said that the senators’ representatives wanted to meet with students to get a sense of what issues were important to them.
“They wanted to gauge the perspective on some of the issues that students care about, or different people in Georgia care about,” Becerra said. “I think their jobs are more like directly working with people around different communities and seeing what issues they care about, and not necessarily just college students.”
Becerra said that most of the lunch was spent getting to know the students. The group talked some about the cost of healthcare as well as access to higher education.
While the discussion went well, Becerra said that she felt a bit of a disconnect due to the fact that the senators work at a national level and any concerns for Georgia, specifically, would be difficult to pass.
“I also felt a bit of a disconnect knowing that ultimately they’re working for the national Congress and that they don’t necessarily have a ton of influence over what’s happening in our everyday lives,” Becerra said. “Like, if I ask for this for Georgia, that’s probably not going to get passed nationally. If it were a governor, it would make more sense or if it was someone from a local office, I think that there’d be more urgency and kind of like, listening to our concerns and I don’t think that was necessarily always there.”