Four SUNY Oswego students were among those representing their fellow students across the state during a recent SUNY Students on the Hill event on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 28 and 29.

Oswego students Alex George, Peter Mancarella, Derek Smith and Eusebio Omar Van Reenen were among a select group of active SUNY students who traveled to learn more about how to advocate for a cause for the more than 600,000 SUNY students across the system's 64 campuses.

"We make up the future of the working class, the future of our society and the future of our progress to a more perfect union," said Van Reenen, a sophomore dual biochemistry and political science major. "Thus, it's vital to take into account what students' stances are on how our representatives can improve not only on reforming our education system, but our civil liberties too."

Van Reenen said the group advocated to New York state congressional representatives on issues such as increasing the maximum Pell Grant award, reinstating year-round Pell to support summer study, providing adequate funding for other campus-based financial aid programs, extending legal protections for undocumented students and supporting efforts to reduce and refinance student loans, among other issues. The event also helped interested students connect with political representatives as well as D.C.-based alumni.

"We are so pleased that our students took advantage of the opportunity to participate in SUNY Students on the Hill," said Kristi Eck, chief of staff for SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley. "At SUNY Oswego, we encourage our students to be engaged, thoughtful citizens -- of our local community, state, nation and the world. Traveling to our nation's capitol to connect with other SUNY students, SUNY alumni and many of our nation's policymakers and thought leaders provided a valuable and immersive learning experience that deepened the students' understanding of our nation's governance structure and process. We are proud they chose to participate."

For George and Van Reenen, the experience furthered their current activity in Oswego’s own Student Association. Since then, they earned increased roles in statewide student representation; George was elected a DGI graduate representative, and Van Reenen was elected as a university colleges representative to the Student Assembly of the State University of New York at the SUNYSA Spring Conference, held April 7 to 9 in Albany.

"The ability to be the voice for students who are taking out student loans, for those who are not able to graduate on time and for those who study in fear of deportation, is a great honor," said Van Reenen, who also is the Student Assembly representative to Oswego's Faculty Assembly. "Fighting for what's right is always worth it, and the time is now to alleviate these burdens that overshadow our students and act as a barrier for their academic success."