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Lumina Foundation is launching a new effort to elevate student voices in federal policy conversations about education beyond high school by partnering with organizations with strong national networks of students. This post features two of these partners—Leadership for a Diverse America (LEDA) and Young Invincibles—and explores how the stories of two students that they serve illustrate broader policy questions for our leaders to address.
LEDA helps outstanding public high school students from low-income backgrounds get access to and succeed in top universities and colleges by developing their leadership potential.
With Lumina’s support, LEDA’s new Policy Fellows project will train and position a cohort of LEDA Scholars to engage in and inform federal postsecondary policy. “The core of LEDA’s mission is to ensure that diverse voices are at the table where decisions are made, so a new initiative that positions (LEDA Scholars) to engage in federal education policy discussions will strengthen LEDA’s ability to introduce underrepresented voices into these national conversations,” the group said.
Young Invincibles works through national and regional offices to amplify the voices of young adults and expand economic opportunity in several areas including higher education policy. Established in 2009, Young Invincibles has educated tens of thousands of young adults and activated a new generation of policy leaders.
With Lumina’s support, Young Invincibles is strengthening its capacity to engage with students throughout its six regions and in harder to reach places outside metro areas. It not only plans to train and connect these students with policy conversations, but also to use their perspectives to shape its own federal policy development and strategy.
Recently, I’ve gotten to meet some of the students and former students taking part in these efforts. Their experiences bring an important youth perspective to the policy recommendations and data generated by our other federal policy partners at think tanks, membership organizations, and advocacy groups.
Jimmieka Mills has juggled roles as a community college student in Houston, a campus leader, a young mother, and a student journalist who has penned two op-eds with the support of Young Invincibles. She has also persevered despite several roadblocks, including:
Charlie Scott is a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island. Charlie also identifies as non-binary and prefers the pronouns they/them/their. Charlie grew up on a Navajo reservation in Arizona, became a LEDA Scholar, and graduated from Brown University last year, a journey that illuminates many core challenges and opportunities for postsecondary systems today.
Listening to Jimmieka and Charlie reminded me that our students aren’t waiting for the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Their future begins now. We owe it to them as policymakers, advocates, and other leaders to seek out their perspectives, connect them to broader trends and challenges, and design policy with those interests and priorities front and center.
Terri Taylor works on building Lumina’s institutional finance portfolio and uses her experience in nonprofit strategy development in the policy space to build capacity among our federal policy partners. She works closely with our federal policy team on innovative models and collaboratively with Lumina’s vice president of strategic engagement on quality assurance issues.Back to News