It’s that time of year again, the aspiring leaders of the student movement are about to be born. For some students this will be the first election they have even taken part in or experienced; whilst others are carefully devising the best logistical routes to avoid the flurry of leaflets that somehow appear to multiply in your hands. Not everyone fits into these categories, but let us for a moment draw our focus away from the memories of the valiant trees who sacrifice themselves every year to ensure democracy in our Students’ Unions, and focus on a slightly different avenue of thought. A positive one.
Those who know me will not be surprised when I declare that I have a keen interest in working and supporting care leavers. This passion, created by my own experience in care, is something I want to take with me to my new teaching career. I aim to take my current knowledge and develop clear support structures for looked after children whilst at school. By doing this, I want to tackle many of the issues raised by care leavers, and estranged students (it is important to note that though care leavers and estranged students face similar issues it would be naïve to believe they were entirely reflective of each other), in the Higher Education sector.
I intended on writing a blog post on the current care leaver and estranged student project that I am working on first, but Goldsmiths Students’ Union lit a glimmer of hope in me that could not be dimmed, even temporarily. So you will have to wait a few days to hear about my project, but I hope you will find this as uplifting as I did.
It has been a number of years since I was active in my Students’ Union. I am now a Postgraduate student trying to balance study, work, and life (not an easy endeavour). I may not have been active, but it holds a special place in my heart. When I heard of the upcoming elections I wanted to see if I could connect my current project, relating to care leavers and estranged students, with the GSU student elections. So what did I do?
I wrote a motion with the intention of creating a care leavers and estranged student part-time position. Why? Representation. The ability to have a voice is one of the most powerful weapons a person can hold. Students’ Unions have done some incredible work fighting for those underrepresented in society. They have fought, supported, and championed people who society has, on many occasions, sought to destroy. You could say that a Students’ Union is like a family. But here is the important word, family. What happens when this is the only family you have?
Well, it has an immense impact. Think about a really tough day you had, here are some examples:
· The day you got your exam results
· The moment you were given a terrifying diagnosis
· After an emotionally draining campaign
· It’s your first day and you just can’t say hello
· When you lose a partner
· Seasonal holidays
Often, you can call a family member. Talk it through, have a cry, be distracted by your dog who has stolen your brother’s football boot. But what if you don’t have a family?
That is the moment when friends and secondary families, like that of a Students’ Union, are imperative for the well-being of a person. But in reality, if we think about our SU’s, how often have we actually heard any discussion about care leavers or estranged students? Probably not often, some not ever. That is why submitting this motion terrified me. I was proposing to use already stretched resources to support a group of students that are often left forgotten.
So why am I uplifted? Because of the support from the incumbent Sabbatical and Part-Time Officers, and the response of the student body.
It is safe to say that I had a slight anxiety overdrive, and I was not going to be able to present this motion in person. Was that a bad thing? Not at all. Mollie (Education Officer), Tara (Welfare and Diversity Officer), and Eva (Campaigns and Activities Officer), and not to forget the fabulous Lynsay (Campaigns Coordinator) were there to support me all the way. They offered me proof-reading tips, a casual chat to talk through my ideas, and the wonderful Mollie presented the motion for me. The motion passed with an overwhelming majority. And in all honestly, I couldn’t believe it.
Our student body had democratically voted for the creation of a new officer which will give a voice to a group of students who were previously not silent but forgotten. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when something you truly care for becomes a reality, but if you know what it feels like…that is how I am feeling now!
In essence, I could not be more proud of our student body and our elected officers. They have captured the very essence of our movement and instilled me with what I believe is our strongest weapon, hope.
So what can you do? Get involved! Look at your Union’s website, speak to your officers, run in an election (if you want), and support a candidate. If you believe in something, even if you do not hear anyone else saying it, take a leap of faith. Who knows, they may believe it too.
For those of you who are Goldsmiths students, you still have time to nominate yourself and see the list of positions (including our fabulous new position) by following this link https://www.goldsmithssu.org/democracy/elections/
What more can I say, thank you GSU, today I am proud of you!