Navigating the Hill

Many of us remember the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, where we enjoyed watching Steve Jona Squires FeatureMartin and John Candy turn a number of negative situations into enjoyable moments. Those of us who successfully made the trip to Washington D.C. for the National Policy Seminar (NPS) last March experienced an exciting, entertaining and educational event, despite the snow.

Our adventure began when we navigated the city’s subway system to make our way to network with our policymakers. One of the recurring themes at NPS continues to be the importance of each of us—teachers, administrators and students—sharing our stories, putting real faces to program dollars. As we met with the chiefs of staff and legislative directors of our senators and representatives, our job was to communicate our policy stories. However, I witnessed our group asking questions so that they could better understand those who work behind the scenes. As a result, I’ve set a goal for myself and others to form a stronger relationship with the staffers. 

So how do we do this? We begin by sending a thank you card after meeting them, inviting them to school and community events, and staying connected through social media. Several of us discussed a CTE tour this fall, where staffers could stop in and learn more about our CTE programs. Navigating Capitol Hill is a two-way street, and our communication needs to be consistent and constant … and not just when there’s an emergency.

For anyone who wants to learn more about policies or current legislation, NPS gives you the opportunity to meet those who write, track and give input to educational policies and funding. This conference has always allowed me to learn more in-depth information on how other states are finding ways to keep CTE vital and strong. Networking, navigating the Hill and negotiating with lawmakers makes for an exciting trip, no matter what mode of transportation you take to get there.