For most kids, access to activities such as basketball practice, debate club, or even something as simple as getting extra help from a teacher is something we take for granted. However, for Boston students those few extra minutes after school are not worked around by catching a ride with a friend or taking a bit of a hike and walking home. Luckily for the students in the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, dubbed Metco, program, there is a late bus that allows them to stay after school to participate in these types of activities.
Now, though, this bus is in jeopardy because of the substantial budget cuts the Metco program has received over the past year, first from the Patrick administration in November, and again by the Baker administration in February.
On March 19, Metco students, parents, directors, along with teachers and peers from across the commonwealth flocked to the statehouse to lobby for the state to increase Metco funding, which Governor Charlie Baker just decreased by $943,000, for the 2016 fiscal year.
The lobbiers, from 33 towns that participate in the Metco program, first convened in the morning to rally with chants such as “Metco works”. Scituate Metco director, Heidi Harris Lemmel, served as the MC for the rallying, leading the rally cries as well as introducing senators and greeters.
They then went into the chamber, which was a first for Wellesley Metco director, Kalise Wornum who has participated in Lobby Day since she was in ninth grade. Once there, senators, Brookline residents involved in the program, Metco participants, and the Metco executive director, Jean McGuire, all spoke.
Breaking off into separate “teams,” as Wornum described them, the students broke apart by town to talk with representatives. The Wellesley Metco group met with Richard Ross, Alice Peisch, and Gloria Fox’s assistant. The students shared their stories of the effects Metco has had on them, and they also answered questions from representatives.
Te’shaun Thomas ’17 has been a part of the Metco program since he was a kindergartener in 2004. He participated in the lobby day to emphasize the importance of access to a late bus that allows students to participate in after school activities. “We don’t want to just come out here [to Wellesley] and go to school; we are a part of the community too,” he said.“I view the whole of Wellesley as a ‘home away from home,’ and I am very grateful for the opportunities that have come my way thanks to the Wellesley Metco Program.”
Wornum hopes that from the lobby day her students will achieve a greater understanding of their role as citizens and as advocates for change. “I hope they walk away with a sense of urgency and responsibility,” she said. “You have to advocate for how your taxes are spent. Change doesn’t just happen unless you put your feet in the pavement; you’ve got to raise your voice.”
(Olivia Gieger ’17, Arts Editor)