Become a Student Ambassador

COABE Student Ambassador

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COABE's Award-Winning Student Ambassador Training: Michigan Roll-Out

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"It was the most phenomenal experience I've ever had." This was just one of the many positive student comments on our evaluations after  we, Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education - MACAE, completed our first Student Ambassador Training (SAT) on January 25, 2019 in Lansing, Michigan. 

Our very first SAT program, trained 14 students and 16 program staff, representing five counties in our state. Justine Geiger, a COABE trained student ambassador, and I (Vice President of MACAE) led the training, with assistance from our association president.

The training Justine and I received at the 2018 COABE Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, last year provided a solid foundation of information, a training outline, and slides so that we were able to conduct our training back in our home state of Michigan. We marketed the program in December by sending out a one-page flyer and Q & A information sheet to help students and program providers understand what an Ambassador is and what the training would entail. We also stressed the importance of our students' voices in advocating for adult education. One of my fellow board members, Bob Steeh, conducted the training, and student engagement co chair, Laura Profirio provided long distance support and answered questions in a way that made learning fun and emphasized the areas to focus on. During the training, we were live streaming on Facebook and tweeted out to COABE showing collaborative efforts in the direction of student advocacy through Michigan's roll-out of the student ambassador program.

We now have 14 trained student ambassadors who are in the high school completion and ESL programs in our state. The transformation that came over the students from the beginning of the training until the end of the day was amazing. The group not only bonded but also felt empowered and inspired. The ability to hear other students' stories and to realize that they are not alone and that others have had similar, if not more challenging, situations that have been overcome in their pursuit of a credential was powerful. They know the significance of their achievement, but more importantly they realized that the unification of this group is critical in order to promote adult education successes. They willingly embraced the responsibility to work with programs and our state associations to help increase awareness locally and at the state and national levels.

I was so proud that six students came up to us after the training and said they want to advocate not only in their local programs, but for MAC AE too. The key for us now is to keep our ambassadors engaged by developing opportunities at our annual conference, professional development offerings , and legislative advocacy events. We are currently in the process of identifying a second SAT date.


Linda Cianferra, MACAE Vice President

The award-winning COABE Student Ambassador Program has been rolled-out in 19 states with thanks to COABE Student Engagement Chair, Regina Suitt and Co Chair, Laura Porforio. Is your state on board? Contact us at for more details. 

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Capitol Hill Day Student Ambassador Update

Student Ambassador, Justine Geiger, with Linda Cianferra and Oogie Lamar from Michigan Association for Community and Adult Education.

Student Ambassador, Justine Geiger, with Linda Cianferra and Oogie Lamar from Michigan Association for Community and Adult Education.

Advocating for Adult Education has been very close to my heart and after graduation has become more important to me to fight for other adults who deserve the opportunity for themselves. After being chosen to be a part of the COABE ambassador training program, the drive to advocate has taken this importance to an even greater height. When I was made aware of an opportunity to travel to Washington DC to advocate for Adult Education I was eager to accept. Being on the front lines of our countries leaders to advocate for Adult Education was a remarkable place to continue my efforts. I was humbled to share my story and put a face to Adult Education for those who may not fully understand the importance that Adult Ed has for not just me but for all the adults who have been through Adult Education and for all the adults who will need their support in the future. Walking through those historic halls was such a moving experience for me and furthering the pride I feel when I take the stand for Adult Education. I am proud to be an Adult Ed student and it brings me joy to be a part of something that is so important to me and the future of our entire country.

Justine Geiger
Novi Adult Education Graduate (Michigan)
Washtenaw Community College
Social Work Major


By Regina Suitt, AZ
COABE Student Engagement Chair

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At Pima's Adult Education Program, whether it was Student Leadership Councils at our Centers, field trips, voter registration, civic engagement lessons in the classroom, advocating for two buildings, or regaining state funding twice, we have always provided leadership development for our students.

After years of seeing how beneficial it was for both students and our program, we decided to start planning for an advanced training that would honor our student stories, give them valuable CCR tools that they could use outside of adult education, and also serve as a way to raise awareness about the importance of adult education. We have a long history of taking students to speak at local, state, and national events to tell the story of adult education in a way that only they can.

In 2009, some of our program leaders began experimenting with what to include in this training. When it was developed in a way that we could easily deliver, we began offering it regularly in our program. When state funding was zeroed out, we began offering the training statewide with AALL's support.

The goal of the training is to develop student leaders who then remain ambassadors long after they complete our programs. They become representational leaders developing their voice, so they can effectively take action for social change on issues they care about...and advocate for their issues with decision makers.

Ambassador Training 4 Components:

  1. Awareness - statistics and research

  2. Stories - most powerful tool to affect change

  3. Public speaking - message & delivery

  4. Meeting with officials - planning, practicing, facilitating meetings with people in power

The Pima team and our AALL colleagues could never have imagined the interest and turnout for the Ambassador Train the Trainer pre-session at COABE 2018 conference in Phoenix. We had 37 participants from 14 states (including D.C. & Puerto Rico)!

It was amazing to meet the teams and feel the energy from all the students and staff learning how to grow their own Ambassador Programs. Many brought valuable experiences with them, but all learned together the elements of the Ambassadors Program. I really look forward to helping support the teams into the future.

My goal as the COABE Student Engagement chair was to ensure states had trained ambassadors to help advocate for local, state, and national adult education issues. None of this would have been possible without the COABE Executive Director, Sharon Bonney, President Kaye Sharbono, and the entire Board's support, as well as the generous support from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

To make sure we could train this large group, we asked former and current ambassadors for help. The work we do around personal story takes some serious 1:1 time, so I was very grateful to have nine students and staff to help throughout the day.

I am most thankful for our expert ambassador team here at Pima Community College who created this baby and have now set it free. Thanks to Laura Porfirio, Mireya Escamilla, Kathy Budway, Diane Jackson, and the many others who helped shape and deliver the Ambassador Program over the years.

Watch for ways that COABE will continue to support our students with membership, opportunities to attend Capitol Hill Days, as well as other opportunities to engage with COABE.

COABE Fishbowl Meeting