NSSLA students advocate for resources, access to services

Julia Fabrizio, Features & Lifestyle Editor

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Three Iona students traveled to Washington D.C. to advocate for issues in the fields of audiology and speech pathology for Student Advocacy Day on Oct 24.

Student Advocacy Day gives students the chance to meet with national and state representatives about current policy issues related to speech and hearing. Senior Allison Lopez and juniors Julie Stohr and Nicole Genser represented Iona College’s chapter of the National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association at the event.

Students are fighting for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which provides financial assistance to graduate students. They also advocated for improving access to audiology services, according to Genser.

“I thought it was a really unique way to make our voices heard,” Genser said. “Some of the issues at hand really resonated with me.”

The students also promoted workplace diversity and fought for greater access for education in bilingual speech pathology.

“It is important to have easy access to bilingual speech services because it allows patients to feel more comfortable with their therapists when they are speaking in their native language,” Stohr said.

Iona College was the only school from New York to be represented at the event. Stohr and Lopez were the only students attending from New York and Genser was the only attendee from New Jersey. The students met with the staff of Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Bob Menendez.

“I met with Sen. Gillibrand’s staff members and I thought that the meeting went really well,” Stohr said. “I really felt like my voice was being heard.”

Student Advocacy Day was promoted by the American Speech Language and Hearing Association, which supports audiologists and speech-language pathologists in expanding access to their services and advocating for those they serve.

“ASHA has such a great community,” Stohr said.  “It was amazing to see schools from all across the country come together and pursue the same goal and fight for the same issues.”

The students wanted to make a difference in a more hands-on way.

“What motivated me to attend was having the opportunity to make a difference and demonstrate to our representatives that we are more than just a name in an e-mail,” Lopez said.  “We are the next generation of clinicians that will benefit from the promotion of workforce diversity and the Higher Education Act.”