Policy Ambassador: “We Cannot Do This By Ourselves”



My go-to phrase about advocacy is, “small actions matter, they add up to a bigger impact or change”. I feel as if I say this all the time to people. It can be very hard to see a current issue and feel the initiative to act, because the change may seem insurmountable. I certainly have felt this way before and still often do feel like angrily throwing in the towel or simply rolling my eyes and complaining from the sideline. We all have convenient ways to rationalize not taking action, “I don’t have time”, “It won’t matter anyway”, “the system is broken”, “the supermajority ruins everything”, “I am only one voice”. I am sure we all have had some choice of thoughts or words so far this season if you have been paying attention to what our representatives are up to.

I would like to offer a counterpoint to this inaction. The small things DO add up. I am not making this up. I have been coming to the hill, talking with leaders, and trying to support positive problem-solving regarding school-based mental health supports and professionals for four years now. In the last two weeks I have been on the hill I have heard more about school mental health and all the appropriate professionals than ever. The policies I have been promoting are finally seeing the light of day in the proposed legislation. I would like to attribute that to the many educators and professionals that have been speaking to policymakers about the importance of this for our students and systems. No one person can do that alone. Every time we use an email, phone call, or in-person conversation to illuminate our students and educators’ needs we are moving the needle. Even if you don’t feel like that one conversation was productive, you can bet that it will make an impact if they hear it twenty times from different folks. We are all a part of collective change and advocacy. The UEA legislative team cannot do this by themselves, as wonderful as they are. We cannot do this by ourselves.

So, when you feel anger, apathy, disappointment, exhaustion, passion, alarm, love, protectiveness, or any number of reactions to policies being drafted about you and your profession. Please do not rationalize the lack of action. Take five minutes to write an email! I promise you will feel a whole lot better after doing that than stewing about whatever mess we are in at the time and rage-tweeting – OR do both! I know for some that taking a Friday off to join Educator Day on the Hill can be a big ask, but I cannot recommend this experience enough. You will learn just how important you are in the legislative process. You will learn more about how the policy process works, and you will do all this with the support of some very lovely people. EDOH takes all the “scary” out of advocating. I have been bringing educators to this for multiple years now and every time they only report positive things about how easy the day was, and how impactful they felt it was for them and for their profession.

We can do this together, but we all must show up in the ways that we can.

Lauren Rich

Past President-Utah Association of School Psychologists