Education debt relief is an effective way to closen the racial wealth gap, kickstart the economy, and empower young people throughout the country. In May, the administration canceled student loans for around half a million students who attended a for-profit institution, the largest student debt cancellation action so far. Nonetheless, some 45 million borrowers remain in crippling debt that has prevented young people from participating in the economy and reaching their maximum potential.
OSA is dedicated to fighting for the freedom and education for every young person. In April, we stood alongside students throughout the country to show our support for education debt cancellation in DC. OSA members traveled and met up with a variety of organizations including fellow organizations part of the Alliance for Youth Action network. The same month OSA members met in Columbus for a team retreat and skill building.
At the chapter level, different OSA chapters have been doing research on campus policing and pursuing real justice for our communities. For instance, during the spring semester our Cleveland State team held a student campus policing survey which was filled out by hundreds of respondents and took the time to better understand the experiences of students with police and considering their input on topics such as budgeting and accountability. By the conclusion of finals, end of semester OSA celebrations across Ohio had plenty to reflect on including the considerable growth of chapters and the valuable work they have been doing.
Over the spring semester and continuing in summer, we have worked with the Honesty for Ohio Education organization to hold testimony workshops to help students advocate for a fair and honest presentation of history and concepts in school. This has meant showing up against Ohio’s version of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ with HB616. Young Ohioans deserve an honest and accurate education that includes and honors all of our experiences, no matter our race or background. They deserve more than being stuck in a learning environment where their identity and experience are denied and erased.
Looking forward, we are excited to continue to connect young people to empower and amplify their voices. This includes ongoing efforts to research and create a Black Student Equity Report which will include conducting focus groups and qualitative interviews. Moreover, we are continuing to support members through an ongoing summer fellowship that includes college students and graduates throughout the state. This is a valuable opportunity for our talented new leaders to build new skills, plan & organize direct actions, and hold insightful conversations around power-building and engaging in our democracy. More importantly, these leaders will also be trained on the essential concepts of redistricting and how to advocate for fair maps. We are excited about the potential of our new leaders and look forward to developing their power-building and strategic skills in the months to come.
Recent media coverage:
- Afropunk: HB 616, Ohio’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill, And How Black Young People Are Fighting Back
- USA Today: Biden hasn’t forgiven student loan debt. Advocates warn it could hurt Dems in elections.
- Akron Beacon Journal: Kent, UA student protestors: ‘Divisive concepts’ bill designed to comfort white people
- Ideastream: University of Akron and Kent State students rally against ‘divisive concepts’ bill
We are glad to announce the release of our 2021 End-Of-Year Report. There are all kinds of actions from the past year that we are happy to celebrate and reflect on. This includes our advocacy and organizing around the issue areas of higher education, civic engagement, and criminal justice.
In 2021, our members were critical in a campaign collecting signatures for the petition that eventually became Issue 24 in Cleveland, a police accountability measure that passed and will establish the strongest civilian oversight board in the country. We were also actively engaged in conversations, training, and action around student debt relief, combating the ‘transcript trap,’ expanding financial aid, and more.
Finally, as always, we are constantly working to help get out the vote and better engage young people in the democratic process.
Check out our work from this past year— including our accomplishments, our challenges, and our growth over time— by looking at our annual report. To support our organization and its important work, donate here.
Heading into 2021, young people have continued to see and face plenty of issues that plague our campuses and communities. We have continued strong in our mission of #BuildingPower and #Organizing, fulfilling a vision of young people centered as independent leaders of meaningful and transformative change.
For OSA, the spring semester has been about continuing our fight against the criminal injustice system and working to make college more equitable and accessible. In March, we held a Higher Ed Livestream series in coalition with our partner organizations, Policy Matters Ohio, College Now Greater Cleveland, the Ohio Federation of Teachers, and the Ohio Poverty Law Center. The series included personally impacted storytellers and policy experts who discussed why we should end the transcript trap (watch here), the importance of expanding OCOG or the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (watch here), and how debt navigators can help students (watch here).
Earlier this month, Cleveland State and Case Western Reserve University OSA chapter members helped launch the Citizens for a Safer Cleveland ballot initiative campaign, which seeks to implement a charter amendment that would mean fair, independent investigations with real accountability for officers who commit misconduct. Students will be collecting signatures for the ballot initiative throughout the spring, and will be helping to get out the vote come the fall (follow the campaign on Facebook here).
Moving forward in 2021, our members, chapters, and teams are continuing their work in reimaging campus policing and reinvesting in student services, sharing our stories and voices around the student debt crisis to pressure our policymakers, and fighting for state-level policies that make college accessible to everyone, regardless of our race or income.
CHECK OUT OUR NEW STAFF!
We are proud to announce that Akii and Sammi have joined the OSA team as student organizers for Columbus and Cincinnati respectively. They will be helping #BuildPower in campuses and communities across Ohio, empowering young people to organize around the issues that matter most to us.
Akii Butler (He/Him)
Akii was born in Virginia Beach, VA and raised in Youngstown, OH. He is the OSA’s student organizer for the Columbus area as well as Kent State University. Before joining the OSA, Akii spent his time organizing during his time as a student for Kent State University, and after with a local organization. During his time with the OSA, Akii hopes to make an impact and bring together emerging and unique college students to help make the change that they want to see. One of his goals to bring change within the Higher Education system with the help of his peers and colleagues.
What do you hope to accomplish at OSA?
During my time with OSA, I hope to make an impact on many of the students I’ll be working with. I want to show them that through organizing you can create change, no matter what the issue is.
Hey OSU students! Get involved with the OSA OSU Chapter!
OSA is relaunching its OSU chapter! If you are interested and would like to get involved with the new chapter, please contact Akii Butler via email at email@example.com
Sammi Mathew (She/Her)
Sammi Mathew was raised in Cincinnati, OH, where she continues to operate as a Student Organizer for OSA. Within the past five years, Sammi has utilized communications, social media, campaigns and community organizing to advance women’s rights, immigrant rights, animal rights, and tenant rights. Sammi believes organizing is key to obtaining community-based solutions which break the patterns of systemic injustice, and achieving a just and liberating society for all people with power in the collective. In her free time, Sammi enjoys vegan food blogging, studying cooperatives and abolitionist approaches to injustice, unlearning and relearning, and assisting the Kentucky Anti-Eviction Network.
What do you hope to accomplish at OSA?
As a Student Organizer with OSA, I plan to assist students in realizing their potential to organize for collective community power, and work towards a society that goes beyond the confines of the world that capitalism, white supremacy and misogyny have constructed in front of us. In this pursuit, I hope to help students work on strategic actions which result in the defunding of campus police, building out student worker unions, advocacy for national debt cancellation, and/or anything else students feel would create a more just campus for all students.
TAKE ACTION FOR HIGHER EDUCATION!
In order to make Ohio a state where everyone can thrive and reach their full potential, higher education must be accessible and affordable. OSA is actively working to fight punitive policies such as the transcript trap and fighting for student debt cancellation, which will help decrease the racial wealth gap in the country.
Student Debt & Transcript Trap Survey
Impacted by student debt or the transcript trap? Did you leave your university with outstanding student debt, and has it impacted your ability to graduate (i.e., was your transcript withheld)? Whether your college plans were disrupted due to the cost of higher education or because you had to take time off, your story matters to us. And if you’re currently struggling to navigate the crushing maze of paying off student debt, we hear you. Share your story below to help make change!
Student Debt Petition
It is imperative we use our voices as students to advocate and fight for more accessible and affordable education. We are calling on President Biden and Ohio lawmakers to implement policy to end the student debt crisis and ensure every Ohioan can graduate and fulfill their dreams, regardless of race or income. Sign this petition and show your support for education debt cancellation.
Between a critical election, an ongoing pandemic, an adjustment to remote learning, and the struggles of trying to afford an education while paying off debt and making ends meet, young people in Ohio had an overwhelming and difficult year in 2020. Nonetheless, even in these dire and unfamiliar circumstances, young people have continued to find ways to organize and fight for the issues that matter most to us. For the OSA team, this has entailed getting out the vote, showing up for racial justice, fighting for criminal justice reform, and more. Read all about our different work, wins, and reflections for the past year in our yearly report.