TRIO student support services hosts self-advocacy event during Black History Month

By Courtney Alexander, Staff Reporter

Conflicting situations affect college students on a daily basis, but handling the situation well and advocating for yourself is an act of self-love.

This was the message students received at the cultivating self-advocacy event hosted by Student Support Services on Thursday. The event, which was part of SIU’s Black History Month calendar, was intended to promote self-advocacy. 

Charah McKinzie, the coordinator of the Black Resource Center, said part of self-advocacy is  expressing how you feel, and communicating that to others.

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“Self-advocacy can include different things, but it’s the ability to speak up for yourself in whatever capacity that would be,” McKinzie said. “We all have different styles of communication, but self-advocacy is taking that step to express your needs and express things that are important to you.” 

McKinzie said self-awareness is also an important part of advocating for yourself.

“We need to change the language in how we ask for things and that also includes self-awareness. You may be needing something but sometimes it’s hard to articulate that to get you what you want. That self-awareness comes into play with knowing your boundaries and your emotions,” McKinzie said. 

Cristina Castillo, the coordinator of the Hispanic/Latino Resource Center, said being honest with yourself and knowing who you are, can help students express what they need. 

“Self-advocacy is the ability to learn how to ask for what we need to fulfill our needs and it requires us to know ourselves in order to know what are the needs we have. I think that it’s important to be able to be honest with ourselves in order to be true to what we need,” Castillo said. 

Castillo said students should identify what they need so they can gain knowledge and connect with the right resources.

“We need to know who we are and recognize our strengths and our interests, especially in regard to our college careers. Having the knowledge […] to ask for things, and having a voice and leadership skills go along with knowing yourself and how to ask for things,” Castillo said. 

Victoria Taylor, the coordinator of TRIO Student Support Services, said it can be difficult for college students to speak up and express their needs, but speaking up can make a difference for them.

“To me, self-advocacy is having a voice. Sometimes it’s not hard to speak up for other people when we witness an injustice, or a friend or family member being treated unfairly, but sometimes it’s challenging to find your own voice, I think self-advocacy is your personal voice sometimes, ” Taylor said. 

Taylor said students should try their best to control their emotions when handling difficult situations so they can advocate for themselves in a respectful manner.

“In the classroom when you’re having an issue with the professor, you can’t get upset, sometimes we have to step away from it, we can’t […] be emotionally filled. You’re upset right now, take some time away, talk to somebody about it before you respond,” Taylor said. 

Courtney Alexander can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at ___Courtney_alex23______. 

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