When trying to make changes in the system it is crucial that you remember to play by the rules of the system. This shows a level of respect and understanding for the policy makers and the world they function within.
This website contains information to get you started. Each of the Service Program's five issue areas has information for the local level and the North Carolina State level. Click here for a full summary of what is available on this site. To learn how a bill becomes a law in the North Carolina State Legislature click here. Many organizations offer activist tool kits to with additional advice. Here is a really good one made by the organization RESULTS.
The first and most important rule is to make sure you are talking to the right people. This means you are talking to the people who are involved in the decision making or work with those people. For example calling your State Representative Patsy Keever about an ordinance that is going to vote in Asheville's City Council is far less effective than reaching out directly to a councilman. Calling on Patsy Keever about an issue at the State level like Raise the Age however makes perfect sense.
The full ZIP code for Warren Wilson College is 28778-2042. You can find the representatives for the this ZIP code or any in the state via VoteSmart.org
When it comes to communicating with people who can effect systematic change, like legislators or county commissioners, it is best to treat them like anyone else. When legislators are in session they are there to make decisions; they are very busy and at times stressed. This means it is best to make your initial meeting with them when they are not in session. When not in session, you will both have time to listen to one another's opinions and memorable stories. Then when the time to make decisions come you can reminded of your conversation before. There are several types of communication but overall the more time and thought you put into your request, the more effective it will be. For a more in-depth look at types of communication check out Cornell's explanation.
Whether or not you have done any direct policy or advocacy work, you do have service experiences that give you knowledge and credibility. Let's look at the following example:
"I've been volunteering at MANNA Food Bank in Asheville, for three years now. I have seen the shelves become less and less adequately stocked as North Carolina's state budget has been cut. The state now more than ever must preserve the nutrition safety net to prevent a further increase in food insecurity in WNC."
The first sentence shows the State Representative that you are invested in the issues and that you live in their voting district i.e. they work for you. The second sentence states one symptom of reduced funding. The final statement charges the Representative with the action you think they should take. Also the use of WNC (Western North Carolina) shows you realize that it is not just your community being affected but that a much broader population is depending on your representatives' actions.
Some advice from local individuals who work with advocacy and policy:
"Stick with it and focus on measurable success" -Emily Ball, Homeward Bound
"Every issue is like a puzzle and you just have to figure it out. Find new and creative ways to solve problems."-Julie Mayfield, WNCA
"In the absences of frustration, compassion will grow"-Joshua Stack, MANNA
"Change up the issues you are working on; use your advocacy skills and keep learning."-Barbara Benisch, YWCA of Asheville
While speaking is a very effective way to be heard it is not the only one. Let your creativity flow and brainstorm ideas with other passionate students. How could you collaborate with other organizations? Are there already events planned that you can support?