WILL Event Discusses How to Be an Advocate

Shea Roberts, Staff Writer

The WILL+ club collaborated with CEEP this past Thursday in a panel led by Linda Truong, Vice President of WILL+ and intern for CEEP. The panel, titled “How to be an Advocate,” ran from 7 p.m. to about 8:30 p.m.
Truong started the panel by introducing advocacy, explaining its importance, and how to start your own advocacy journal. She said, “I made a plan over the summer that when I came into college, I would be involved and I would start advocating, because I really wanted to not just speak up, but I wanted to be heard.”
So now, she considers herself “an advocate that encourages others to be advocates.”
Truong explained, “By definition, advocacy is an activity by an individual or group that aims to influence decisions within political economic and social institutions.” She admitted that was a fairly broad definition.
“The true importance of advocacy isn’t the actual action, but rather what you’re advocating for. The main reason why we advocate is to bring some degree of change.”
She showed various pictures of several well-known advocates such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Greta Thunberg on her PowerPoint, pointing out that every advocate’s journey is different, but they all fight for change.
“Even though there isn’t a set picture on what an advocate is, I think they all have certain qualities in common. There is a lot of ambitious people…the second [quality] was empathy…and the third [quality] was being aware.”
Truong recommended four steps you should take if you’re interested in starting your own advocacy journey. “To establish motivation, to educate yourself, to become involved, [and] to take action.”
She also presented four questions you should answer in advocacy. “What does the world need more of today? How do you want to bring value to your/other people’s lives? What are you afraid of for future generations to experience?”
In the second portion of the panel, Truong interviewed local advocates Amanda Zelevansky, current president of the WILL+ club, and Megan Friedman, WILL+ member and president of the Global Citizenship club. Yeimi Hernandez, former president of the WILL+ club, was present on the call and also said a few words.
Zelevansky advocates for women’s rights and people with disabilities. She said, “You don’t have to convince everybody that the cause you’re fighting for is the most important, because everyone’s fighting their own battle.”
On her own advocacy journey, she said, “Getting to know different people, and their stories, has really changed me.”Friedman, an advocate for human trafficking victims, gender equality in politics, and environmental issues, said, “An obstacle [to advocacy] is definitely knowing what resources you have and knowing how to utilize those resources.”
But she also said, “There are going to be a lot of people that are with you and that feel the same way about issues and that are willing to stand up and advocate for the same issues.”Hernandez said, “If you’re going to fight for a cause, be passionate about it. It has to come from the heart, it has to be for the right reasons, because you want to defend the people you’re fighting for.” Friedman agreed.
“You’re going to make the best advocate when you’re passionate about it.”
Truong asked them for any advice they would give to aspiring advocates. “Start by learning,” said Friedman. Zelevansky said, “Find other people who have the same interests as you. With all of the forms of social media we have today, make good use of it.”
Audience members presented several questions and comments to the panel. “I think it’s so cool to see younger people being more socially aware, and being more socially active,” said one audience member. The WILL+ club hopes to present another panel in the near future concerning the recent crimes in Georgia.