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  Avila students take part in Lobby Day    
  Kansas City, MO    
May 15, 2009

This spring, Avila students traveled to the capitol to take part in the National Association of Social Work Lobby Day.

As part of a senior social work class on social policy, Leanne Coit, Jennifer Spiegel, Stephanie Campbell and Ashley Montoya set off to lobby for a specific bill of their choice. Armed with information packets, background on legislators and many questions, the students were ready to meet their senators and representatives.

“The students were really nervous, but it was an excited nervous,” social work assistant professor Elaine Wright, MSSW, Ph.D, said. “They were well prepared, very professional and were able to meet all of their legislators–even if it was in the hallway.”

The four Avila seniors prepared in advance for their trip, each creating an information packet on their specific bill. Their packets included a policy statement, information on a related social issue and a letter stating their stance on the topic. The students were informed by NASW that meetings had been set up for them with each of their legislators. Once at the capitol, many of their meetings weren’t available as planned, but that didn’t stop Avila’s students.

“When the students found that their legislators weren’t present for their meeting times, the students searched them out,” Wright said. “The students went to the house floor or would met the legislators in the hallway between sessions. At the end of the day, the students met with all their legislators.”

All of the students advocated for topics they had chosen. Most of the students chose a bill that directly related to their field experience. Topics involving insurance coverage for durable medical equipment, updated sprinkler systems in nursing homes, child support money to be allocated for education funds and kinship care as a primary choice in adoptions.

The students made an impression on Missouri House Representative Kate Meiners who introduced Avila University’s students on the floor. The students were also recognized again with the other NASW schools participating in the lobby day.

The social work students also teamed up with Avila nursing students for the trip. Avila nursing students, who were also headed to the capitol for their own advocacy day, joined with the social work students to caravan to Jefferson City.

“This trip has opened the door for more collaboration,” Wright said. “We have a lot of overlap, and we can always learn from others’ perspectives.”

Learning from others’ perspectives is what the advocacy day was all about. Wright said that she wants her students to understand that policy makers are just regular people too. She emphasized to her students that it is their civic responsibility to connect with their legislators and that they could be policy makers one day.

“I think we made a big impression on the policy makers,” Wright said, “and the experience made an even bigger impression on the students.”

For more information about Avila University’s Social Work program, please visit


Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.