Claremont, Calif. (June 14, 2016)—Pitzer College students Amina Farias ’18 and Eleanor Neal ’18 formed one of five winning teams of Debating for Democracy’s national 2016 Letters to an Elected Official competition, which is sponsored by Project Pericles, a consortium of colleges and universities that promotes civic engagement within higher education.
Farias and Neal wrote to Representative Judy Chu, D-CA, about Medicaid-funded mental health treatment and support programs for people who have been involved in the justice system in the US. In their letter, the students state that formerly incarcerated women need more than expanded insurance coverage for mental healthcare to help rebuild their lives.
“The primary goals of our proposal are to prevent recidivism while promoting successful community reintegration,” Farias and Neal write. “We are committed to helping women and their families achieve self-sufficiency and stability. We believe that the clients at Prototypes Women’s Center need access to employment opportunities, housing assistance, educational resources, and community support services to achieve a better quality of life. We also believe that health care is of upmost importance: that until individuals can access equitable health services and achieve continuity of care post-reentry, they are unable to address other issues, such as financial stability and steady employment. Our proposal will ultimately work to develop linkages to organizations in the community. Further, we will cultivate self-sufficiency of justice-involved individuals by providing them with the information they need to lead healthy, productive lives.”
Farias and Neal proposed taking a three-prong approach to meet these goals. With funds from Project Pericles, they plan to:
- Develop a small resource guide that will identify and locate public services and assistance programs in the Inland Empire
- Register Prototypes Women’s Center as a community enrollment center for Covered California
- Enroll Prototypes clients in insurance plans to ensure continuity of care post-reentry
This project had its roots in the students’ involvement, through Pitzer’s Community Engagement Center’s partnership with Prototypes Women’s Center—a collaboration co-founded by Pitzer Professor Laura Harris, who also serves as the partnership’s faculty adviser—and participation in the Pitzer course Individual and Collective Wellbeing, which facilitated the D4D Letter-writing process.
The Project Pericles’ Debating for Democracy (D4D) competition promotes civic engagement and effective advocacy skills among a wide range of students. Students from campuses that participate in Project Pericles send letters on critical public policy issues to elected officials throughout the United States. This year, for the first time, students also submitted project proposals outlining how they would use their award. The five winning teams will each receive $500 to work on their issue during the 2016-17 academic year.
Founded in 2001 by educational philanthropist Eugene M. Lang, Project Pericles is an organization that encourages and facilitates commitments by colleges and universities to include social responsibility and participatory citizenship as essential elements of their educational programs.