The Green Thumbs of Student Leaders: Reflections from our Virtual 2020 Swipe Student Summit
This blog was penned by National Programs Coordinator Alexa Aburto and Community Engagement Manager Emily Kass.
“The power is already yours. Don’t waste any more time understanding if you have it. The question is: how will you wield it?” – Sam Prater, Founder of Los Angeles Room and Board
Students are some of the most, if not the most, steadfast organizers, activists, and advocates. They fight for social justice; they are community builders; and, they innovate to meet the needs of now. Throughout our 2020 Swipe Student Summit themed “Seed of Change,” we heard from student leaders nationwide who are spearheading the movement for college student food security. Student facilitators enlightened participants with their insights, experiences, and wisdom. Summit attendees engaged with one another around brainstorming ideas for sustainable, long-lasting impact on campus, affirming that “student leaders create the foundation for movement building around food insecurity and basic needs in higher education,” as student leader Meredith Song from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities commented.
From the very beginning, our Swipe Summit had an electric energy. As emerging world leaders fueled by a collective mission to end college student hunger, students sought out various opportunities to convert their conviction into tangible, impactful action on their campus community and beyond.
I believe that connection among student leaders is important for movement building because together, we can work to overcome obstacles that oppose the principles of our movement. This year’s Summit provided incredible workshops that ranged from Coalition Building to Destigmatizing Food Insecurity that were taught by student leaders from all over the nation and allowed us to discuss how we achieved success with our respective chapters so that we may apply what we learned to our own campuses, further proving that by joining forces with one another, we can reach insurmountable lengths through the effort that we give together.
During our advocacy session, students learned how they can emerge as effective campus, community, and legislative advocates fighting for college food security. We previewed our new Advocacy Toolkit, which will enable students to strengthen their grassroots efforts as advocates and sustain long-term impact. This session gave leaders a roadmap to lead an inclusive, uplifting movement focused on securing basic needs for everyone at the campus level– with student voices at the forefront.
I believe connection among student leaders is everything! Movements are not constructed by one person, but rather by a team with a common passion or goal. This year’s summit supported this connection for me by allowing me to share my thoughts, ideas, and insight with fellow leaders, while taking in feedback and knowledge from the diverse experience of others.
This energy and vision only continued to grow, especially during a panel featuring three amazing activists that have grown their movement from the grassroots, including Sam Prater, the Founder of Los Angeles Room and Board, Yesenia Jimenez, a current California Senate Fellow, and Owen Flomberg, President of the Student Basic Needs Coalition National Leadership Team. The panelists discussed the various challenges, learning opportunities and grand victories that have shaped their paths. Students saw their best dreams and ambitions reflected in the words and work of the guest speakers, further solidifying their commitment to the student basic needs movement.
Movement building begins and ends with student connection. To build community, collaboration, and communication among student leaders is at the heart of what Swipe Out Hunger does. Through this year’s summit, I gathered with other students to sustain a movement and spark momentum that will ultimately end college hunger and achieve food security for all.
Also during the Swipe Summit, students strengthened relationships that were effortlessly born at last year’s summit while also creating new bonds with others. These interpersonal connections are the ultimate pillar of the student basic needs movement. They strengthen ties across lines of difference to ensure all student leaders are united in their shared mission to end college student hunger.
Through connecting with fellow student leaders, I am able to learn from the countless, diverse, and incredibly unique experiences of my peers. I can learn from their successes and failures, and through our connection and shared experiences, build our collective movement with a stronger, more united front.
Through our “Building an Inclusive, Destigmatized & Dignified College Food Security Program” session, students had the opportunity to connect with one another, exchange brilliant ideas, and offer words of encouragement to ensure that all campus initiatives are truly centered on equitability, inclusivity, and trauma-informed frameworks. A web of student support was built out from that session, strong enough to last beyond the digital space of the virtual summit.
I would not have been able to establish a Swipe Out Hunger chapter at my school if it weren’t for the advice and support I received from student leaders at other schools who experienced similar challenges when starting their chapters. Every time I meet with other student leaders within the Swipe network, I always learn something valuable that I can take back to my campus to improve my hunger-fighting efforts. All of the new and old friends I connected with at this year’s Swipe Summit gave me so many new and creative ideas for how I can meet students’ basic needs in the wake of COVID-19.
Our Swipe Summit was a celebration of student power and success– and yet, the work does not stop there. Our Summit provided a first step in the mission to end student food insecurity: it brought together a variety of student voices. It helped students plant that initial “seed” of change, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the students themselves to leverage their power and raise their collective voice to cultivate that change. We leave you with one last statement from a dedicated leader:
I want to be a part of a network of movement leaders like those at the Swipe Student Summit because changing a $600 billion higher education system is going to take student leaders in every corner of the country working in sync to make higher education accessible to all.