BY TAYLOR BENNETT, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB
Each year, The Hub supports a key method for West Virginia’s students to flex their policy muscles and get real-life experience in pitching public policy issues to legislators through the Summer Policy Institute (SPI).
Put on by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and the American Friends Service Committee, SPI typically brings students from across the state to a central location to learn more about the policy process, build their understanding of key policy issues, and take part in a policy pitch competition.
This competition is the real deal:
- Students come up with innovative policy solutions that would address West Virginia’s biggest challenges if they were passed tomorrow.
- They pitch these solutions to current legislators and policy professionals whose job it is to craft, advocate for, and pass policies in our legislature.
- The winning pitches receive a $500 mini-grant to continue advocating for their policy solution.
The events of 2020 led to a virtual convening instead of an in-person event. But, neither students nor the event hosts and participants were slowed down by virtual participation. SPI kicked off on July 24th with virtual sessions running through the week. The event culminated in a policy pitch contest on August 1st.
Judges this year included legislators from the West Virginia House of Delegates as well as non-profit advocates. They heard innovative policy ideas from participants; provided valuable, real-world feedback, and even offered to work with SPI policy teams after the event was over to help bring their ideas to the state Capitol Complex in Charleston.
With a record number of policy pitches offered up by the students, the SPI team was able to offer not one, but two $500 mini-grants to the top pitches, getting more new advocates and innovative ideas out into the world.
The policy team winners this year were:
- The Jobs of the Future Team, proposing power purchasing agreements to increase solar jobs and,
- The Supporting Children Aging Out of Foster Care Team, proposing a new mentorship program to support children in foster care to build the skills they’ll need to take on adult life.
Winners received the mini-grants of $500 each to continue advocating for their issue, and all teams will receive ongoing support from SPI contributors to continue growing their advocacy skills.
Get ready, West Virginia Legislature! New advocates are on the way.