COABE Student Ambassador


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