Student advocacy and involvement in local government are seen by many as crucial to making their voices heard and enacting changes in their communities. One avenue for student's voices is testifying to local boards and governments.
Throughout the summer, the Montgomery County Regional Student Government Association (MCR) has held different workshops for the group’s members and other Montgomery County students to learn a variety of skills. On July 26, MCR Vice President Hana O’Looney led an hour-long “How to Testify” workshop. The workshop began with a brief introduction to MCR and its summer workshop program by Layna Teitelbaum, MCR’s President.
This was then followed by Hana explaining what testifying involved - in her words, it is individuals reading a prepared speech citing personal anecdotes and statistics to policymakers - and the varying local and state organizations to which students can testify. Example videos of current Montgomery County Student Member of the Board Nick Asante testifying about policy addressing diversity issues to the county Board of Education and Hana herself testifying at a public Board of Education hearing regarding feminine hygiene products. These were used to prompt discussion between workshop participants over the elements of a persuasive and well-written testimony.
The second portion of the testifying workshop involved how to sign up to testify, and the third centered on the basic formula of effective student testimony. In order to craft convincing prose, Hana recommended beginning with a quick introduction, followed by a personal anecdote, a research-based argument, and well-written concluding rhetoric. The key was combining knowledge with passion and personal stories.
The fourth workshop segment centered upon the “Dos and Don’ts” of testifying. The advice given was to research, stay on topic, and practice frequently before the board meeting or public hearing. The subsequent section of the presentation was about advice for the day of testimony, such as appropriate attire and timeliness.
The final portion of the workshop involved participants breaking into groups and crafting testimony about assigned topics, ranging from whether or not all Montgomery County high schools should have pools on the roof to if the app TikTok should be a part of elementary school’s core curriculum.
To the event’s attendees, it was time well spent. “I liked practicing testifying with fake laws in small groups. I want to testify even more now because Hana made it accessible and explained it well,” said Phoebe Chambers, a legislative affairs deputy at MCR. If you are interested in signing up for any future workshops, make sure to fill out the quick form below:
Written by Queen Balina
Published by PR Department