Students lobby for grants, take centennial to the capitol

Release Date: February 4, 2009    

AUSTIN – A student group from Wayland Baptist University made a special trip to the state capitol on Tuesday to encourage the support of the Tuition Equalization Grant by legislators, taking the school’s Centennial Celebration on the road with them.

Wayland junior Mark Navarrete from Spearman and seniors Joel Duarte from Dallas and sisters Kelsey and Ashley Beggs of Muleshoe made the whirlwind trip from Plainview as part of the traditional visit coordinated each legislative session by the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas (ICUT). The Wayland students joined their contemporaries from other private colleges in Texas in making special visits to their legislators to thank them for past support of the TEG grant and encourage them to continue that record.

The grant is given to students who show financial need based on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, forms. It helps offset the difference in tuition for private schools from their public counterparts and is vital to attending quality colleges for their chosen majors for many students at WBU and across the state.

“It helps me to be able to stay in school and pay my bills,” said Navarrete, who is majoring in Spanish. “Without it, I’d have to take out a lot of loans. So it was an honor to be there in Austin.”

Most of the students had never visited the state capitol, much less sit in on a state legislative session. The TEG visitors were recognized in Tuesday morning’s House of Representatives session, and the students got to see a bit of how the legislature works during its 140-day sessions every other year.

But Wayland got special kudos that day in honor of its Centennial, being celebrated through the end of the school year. Dr. Paul Armes, WBU president, was selected Pastor of the Day for the session and opened the House in prayer to begin the proceedings. Then, Rep. Joe Heflin of Crosbyton, whose district includes Plainview, officially presented House Resolution 55 honoring Wayland on its centennial.

The house clerk read the bill in its entirety while Armes and the four students stood on the dais with House Speaker Joe Straus. In addition to the recognition on the House floor, the students also helped distribute goody bags with the DVD produced in honor of the centennial, brochures, notepads, pens and mints to each senator and representative in the state before leaving to return to Plainview.

Ashley Beggs, who is majoring in political science, said she particularly enjoyed seeing the action at the capitol and took advantage of a chance to seek out internships after she graduates in May.

“I’ve been to sessions in the U.S. House and Senate, so it was neat to see that it was as fast-paced as D.C. but Texas style,” Beggs said. “Seeing the representatives on the floor talking about legislation and other issues and the whole process was interesting too.”

The students met with Rep. Warren Chisum, who represents both the Beggs’ and Navarrete’s hometowns, as well as Heflin, then accompanied Duarte to see his representative, Yvonne Davis. Though state senators Kel Seliger, Robert Duncan and Royce West were in meetings and could not arrange personal visits, the students passed along their thanks to their staffs.

“I think they were just glad we were there to say thank you, since most people come by to complain,” said Ashley. “I hope we made a difference. We were only there for a short time, and there were so many others there talking about their own issues.”

The hospitality of those they did meet impressed the students.

“A lot of people there made us feel welcome and less nervous,” said Duarte. “Overall, it was a really good experience.”