The students and staff of the College Experience boarded the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) buses to make their voices heard at the State Capitol just a few miles down the road from their homes and campus. The purpose of their advocacy was very straightforward with their requests being very simple. Our students and numerous others in the disability community were addressing the low wages within the human service field that cause some staff to have no choice other than to quit in favor of industries with more generous pay. There are fast food places that pay more than $15.00 an hour, for example. In the end, a Direct Support Professional (DSP) must make the choice between having a rewarding career caring for talented individuals or supporting their family.

Chants of “8.5!” rang throughout the famous War Room upstairs in the Capitol Building. This is referring to an 8.5 Cost of Living Adjustment (COTA) for all human service workers in New York State! It is not fair for our individuals to have workers come in and out of their lives when they can no longer compete with the low wages. No matter how much the individuals we support try their hardest to become successful, no amount of personal effort will be enough without ample support from dedicated staff. It is ideal that staff stick around for the long haul, too. We all know that change is part of life, although it is not meant to be relentless at the expense of our individuals becoming close with staff only to see them move on rather quickly. Individuals and caregivers also gave speeches about how much they depend on staff who have become familiar with the people they help.

Attached are some photos from the event on Wednesday, November 16, 2022 of the collective passion of our students. We are looking forward to more events that involve advocating for those we support whether it happens to be our individuals, the staff, or their loved ones! We would also like to show our collective respect and appreciation for the efforts of our Governor Kathy Hochul!