By Niamh Gray

For The Diamondback

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to better reflect Condon’s title as a 2023 fellow with the Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative.

University of Maryland students visited Annapolis Wednesday to advocate for child policy initiatives.

The Advocacy Day event, organized by the Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative in Advocacy for Children, Youth and Families, aimed to honor the legacy of child advocate Karabelle Pizzigati, who held high-ranking positions in children’s welfare and education policy both federally and in Maryland.

Students met with state legislators to discuss policy initiatives centered on improving literacy, reducing chronic absenteeism and ensuring student-teacher pay to support future educators.

Students further discussed reforming the juvenile justice system, addressing child welfare issues, increasing funding for behavioral and mental health services and financing the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a policy initiative and K-12 educational funding overhaul.
This university’s public policy school, Morgan State University’s education school and the Maryland Initiative for Literacy and Equity also collaborated on the event.

[Wes Moore discusses public safety, affordable housing in State of the State address]

Robin Schlesinger, a junior family science major and a fellow with the Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative, said she attended Advocacy Day for the first time this year to connect with legislators and share her priorities.

“My focus has always been on the child welfare system and the intersection of the legal system and how we’re making sure that we’re prioritizing and providing the adequate resources for those children,” Schlesinger said. “Getting that point across was really my priority and I think I accomplished that.”

Megan Condon, a 2023 fellow and a public policy graduate student said this was her second year participating in Advocacy Day.

Students and state legislators discussed opportunities for bills about children’s welfare and education that could be introduced during the Maryland General Assembly’s next session, Condon said.

“Today has been a great, wonderful day,” Condon said. “All the delegates have been super receptive … just really seeing how they can really help and impact kids, because children only have one childhood and they really want to help impact, making it the best that it can.”

[Maryland lawmakers look to balance budget constraints with legislative agenda]

Brandi Slaughter, an associate clinical professor in the public policy school, organized Advocacy Day. Slaughter is also the program director for the Karabelle Pizzigati Initiative and associate director for the Maryland Initiative for Literacy and Equity.

Equity for all is important, Slaughter said, as is building students’ advocacy skills.

“From my point of view as the director, it is making sure that advocates are confident. … That’s what we want people to walk away with,” Slaughter said. “In this experience, you can be an advocate. Your voice matters; your influence and experience matter.”

Slaughter concluded by emphasizing the significance of Advocacy Day and urged everyone to advocate for children, who form “about a quarter of our population, but 100 percent of our future.”

For Schlesinger, Advocacy Day was a way to make her voice heard and stand up for others.

“It’s just important to know that children don’t have as much of a voice,” she said. “We’re the generation that can really make an impact and make sure that we’re making our voices heard.”