In the Room Where it Happens – Legislative post by UEA Policy Ambassador Hillary Emmer

Legislative report submitted by UEA Policy Ambassador Hillary Emmer, school counselor at Copper Mountain Middle School in Jordan School District and president of the Utah School Counselor Association

At the beginning of my endeavor as a UEA Policy Ambassador, I was intimidated, naïve and completely scared out of my mind. So why did I volunteer for this? I had an epiphany that most of our political leaders really wanted to do the right thing, however, they were expected to be an expert in so many things. How could they possibly know what the right thing was when it came to work that they didn’t do every day? I wanted to be someone in their inner circle that they could reach out to and talk through issues that were being discussed. I wanted to become a person that they could rely on for times when items were out of their element but were completely in mine. Mostly, I wanted these representatives to know that I was someone who was willing to talk and listen through the issues that affect me and the work I do with students. I wanted to be “in the room where it happens.”

So, I put my toe in and started to learn the process. I began with introducing myself – just like I would if I were meeting a new student in my office. I even used this tactic at the local level with my school board representative. What I have learned is that those I reached out to were eager, yes eager, to hear my perspective. They wanted to hear what I had to say and valued my opinion. I even have the green light from an individual to text anytime because my insight is valued and appreciated – a luxury this person said is not granted to everyone.

Are we best friends? No. Not yet. But I know the seeds of a partnership have been planted and this can happen for you too! Because at the end of the day we all want the same thing – what is best for our students! Start with your strengths. If you know case law in and out, use that approach. If you know how to build relationships, work that angle. Find a bill that interests you, or reach out to your representative and say, ‘hey, I voted for you! I’d like to meet you and see how we can work together to support our students.’

Just jump in and we’ll be at the table in the room where these decisions are made.