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New Orleans Students Advocate on Capitol Hill

Four students from the College Beyond program are traveling to Capitol Hill this week for two days of education and advocacy with the National College Access Network (NCAN).

The students will be learning how to educate and inform Congress about issues they face, and how Congressional leaders can help students achieve their educational goals. They will hear from congressional staff, discuss key education topics, and meet with Louisiana Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, as well as Representatives Steve Scalise and Cedric Richmond.

Erica Martinez, founding college success coach at College Beyond issued a statement saying, “We are so thankful to NCAN for this opportunity to empower our young adults to have a voice with their state representatives. These young people are not just our future leaders but the leaders of today.

The students attending are a diverse group, and each is a first-generation college student. All have served as peer mentors, are active in their various universities, are registered to vote and appreciate the opportunity to advocate for themselves and their peers. You can read about each of them below.

Hoa-Tranh Pham is a University of New Orleans sophomore majoring in business finance. She is a graduate of Benjamin Franklin High School and attended a committee meeting at the State House to advocate for access to affordable education by protecting TOPS. She is currently in the Model United Nations class. She says, “I’m really hoping to meet Richmond in person.”




Cedric Dent is a graduate of Walter L. Cohen College Prep. He currently is a senior social work major and Chief of Staff of the Student Government Association. As a published author, Dent has a passion for encouraging his fellow students to find their resilience to succeed through life’s challenges. 




Elizabeth Rodriguez is a sophomore honors student majoring in Human Performance and Health. She is a U.S. citizen whose family immigrated from Cuba when she was a little girl. Her background gives her the opportunity to advocate for other immigrant students.




Michael Bankston is a graduate of Elanor McMain Secondary School. Currently, he is a sophomore psychology student who believes “every child can be successful with the right support system.” He hopes to share how supports like College Beyond have helped him be successful at UNO.


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