In support of public education, a group of West Chester University students led a march across campus on Friday, March 3.
Student Sigfried Aragona explained that he and Maya Grosch organized the march to protest the appointment of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education.
“While surrounding college campuses openly protested, West Chester University lacked an organized demonstration to create a statement, and we watched our quad become victim to belligerent and bigoted preachers,” said Aragona. “[Grosch] and I sought to create a peaceful and safe platform [for] the campus community to unite in the name of public education during a time we, as college students, collectively feel threatened under the direction of DeVos.”
The group gathered at the Frederick Douglass statue at 2 p.m. and began their march about 15 minutes later, carrying signs and chanting as they went.
After the march across campus, the group held a rally on the academic quad that lasted until approximately 4 p.m. There, students, faculty and other members of the WCU community spoke about why public education was important to them.
During the rally, student Haley Buckner read a letter written by one of her friends that was addressed to DeVos.
“The right to a quality education is not a choice, Secretary DeVos,” Buckner read. “It is a right in your classroom.”
The letter concluded that DeVos is “not inheriting a classroom with learners who look and think like [her].”
“You are inheriting a classroom filled with diverse, unique learners who need a strong teacher who can accommodate us,” Buckner read. “We welcome you to see education from our perspective, from our desks. Secretary DeVos, know us as learners, know us as the learners of color, the underrepresented learners and the indebted learners at West Chester University.”
Kyle Hudson, who is running for mayor of West Chester, attended both the march and rally to show his support for public education and the students at WCU.
“It’s amazing to see these students out here fighting for a cause they believe in,” said Hudson.
According to Hudson, quality education is his biggest priority.
“When you mess up education, it can damage a whole generation,” said Hudson. “That’s why what’s going on is so scary. I don’t want there to be a lost generation.”
Jamie Berg, a member of the Pennsylvania Student Power Network, spoke at the rally about the Fight for $15 campaign. According to their Facebook page, the goal of the campaign is to ensure a $15 hourly wage for all student and campus employees, as well as a five-year freeze on tuition and fees.
Steve Ciprani, a WCU alumnus, was also in attendance at the rally. Ciprani co-founded the March for Public Education following the Women’s March on Washington in January.
Described as a forum for students, educators and citizen advocates, the March for Public Education’s vision is “that public schools will be safe, inclusive spaces for learning and critical thinking, where all children discover their passion(s) and role(s) as citizens.”
“We felt the national conversation regarding student performance, school accountability and academic outcomes were not matching the experiences we had as students and educators,” said an emailed statement from Ciprani. “We decided that we needed to be the advocates for the issues that were not being addressed in our culture.”
The March for Public Education leadership team is currently organizing a national march in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, July 15. More information can be found at www.marchforpubliced.org.
Casey Tobias is a third-year student majoring in women’s and gender studies and communication studies with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at CT822683@wcupa.edu. Her Twitter is @Casey__Tobias.