One of the benefits of living in the Capital Region of New York State is having direct access to powerful individuals who are able to make things happen for us! On that note, the students of the College Experience are continuing to double down on their efforts to convince the state government to pass the 8.5 Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in the budget this spring. The 8.5 COLA is going to benefit the lives of those working in the not-for-profit sector of the human service field who often earn a lot less money than employees working for the state performing the same degree of work.

On Monday, February 13th, 2023 the program attended a rally in the War Room of the State Capitol. On Friday, February 24, 2023 the students were handed form letters to fill out for lawmakers. There was even a place for them to write a personal message if they chose to add this bonus material to their nice letter.

One student named Miles wrote the following on his letter to an Assemblymember or Senator:

It is very difficult when staff always have to leave working with us. When someone can stay working with me, it makes me happy and makes my life easier because they get to know me well. My staff Erin in my house is so wonderful. She helps me with working and chores, but also I can talk to her about how I’m feeling and she helps make me feel better and laugh. If she had to leave because she didn’t have enough money, I would be so sad. These people do so so so much work and they deserve more!!

Abigail helped rally her peers into taking part in this worthwhile project. She wrote the following to Assemblymember Phil Steck:

I would not be where I am today without CEP staff’s help. Kelly who’s leaving taught me so much about the world and how to stay organized. I feel like I’m more mature now.

Instructors got in on the action, too! Hayley Humiston who teaches Executive Functioning wrote the following testimonial:

I have been a staff member for 2 years, and I absolutely love this work. It’s essential that we increase wages to keep passionate staff in this field.

We are not done yet with doing everything possible to make sure this 8.5 COLA has a fighting chance to pass in this year’s budget that will officially go out the beginning of April. On Monday, March 6th, 2023 there were Living Resources employees and individuals who gave out St. Patrick’s Day Gifts to about 17 Senators and Assemblymembers while telling them about the importance of this vital work performed by the Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). This effort was followed later that afternoon by Jesse Saperstein who is the College Experience’s Media and Activities Liaison visiting some lawmakers to talk about his own personal experience striving for success with Asperger’s syndrome. There are a few more employees like Jesse here at Living Resources who live with a disability that have been on the side of an individual receiving services and an employee providing services later in adulthood. One of the things that Jesse told the lawmakers is that while change is inevitable in the human service field as it is in life itself, change is not supposed to be relentless! He added, “It is not fair to the individuals we serve when there are employees coming and going without any point in bonding with new staff only to have them leave to earn more money elsewhere.”

The 8.5% COLA will surely be a game changer and will enhance the lives of those providing valuable services to the individuals of the College Experience and Living Resources. In the meantime, we will continue to reach out to the right people who have the power to make things happen. Senator John W. Mannion and Assemblymember Angelo Santabarbara are two such lawmakers who are on our side and have had support for the 8.5 COLA even before we visited them at the Legislative Office Building (LOB) in Downtown Albany.We hope for some additional high-profile company in this particular mission and will strive to achieve it before the budget is drafted within a few weeks!

Among other photos, we are showing our students holding up their completed letters in triumph that were mailed out by Jesse Saperstein the following day.