Student Spotlight: Emily Dunne Goes to Richmond

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My very first lobby day with Virginia21 was promised to go smoothly and without issue. I was prepared on what topics to discuss and informed that legislators were mostly interested in hearing my own personal experiences with the issues that Virginia21 advocates for like student privacy, student debt, and financial aid.


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It all seemed simple enough, but it’s kind of like when you’re last to present a project in a three hour class and have to spend most of it waiting nervously at your desk. As the clock ticks by, you get more and more anxious.


I had no real idea what to expect. All I knew was that I was nervous. A lot of people, including myself, have the tendency to place state legislators on the same pedestal as national ones, assuming that they’re always busy and have no care for the issues of their constituents, especially young people.

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I soon found out that wasn’t true. Not only do our state legislators care about the issues that resonate with young people, they actually have more in common with us than we think. While meeting with Delegate Jeffrey Bourne, for example, I learned that he is still paying off student debt from when he was in college. While meeting with Senator Glen Sturtevant, we were able to have an active conversation about Virginia21 and he showed clear understanding of and care for the work we do and the legislation we support.

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It wasn’t the semi-formal presentation I was imagining and nobody seemed to notice when I got stuck on my words. However as the day went on, I felt more and more confident speaking up to tell the people elected to represent my peers and I why we need them to stand up and fight for young people on behalf of loan debt, financial aid, and privacy.

As someone who has always felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety when faced with public speaking and networking events, I realized that talking to state legislators really isn’t all that scary and that sharing our personal stories can often make all the difference. Although it’s too soon to know the fate of the legislation we lobbied on behalf of that day, I’m confident that the work done by Virginia21 and its dedicated student school chapter members will make an impact on the future of Virginia.

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About the Author

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Emily Dunne is the Development Intern for Virginia21. She is a senior studying political science and history at VCU. Emily has previously worked on political campaigns both at home and abroad. She's had a desire to get involved in politics from a young age and is excited to work for an organization so determined to promote young people and their involvement in politics. In her free time, Emily enjoys being outdoors, cycling with her dad, cooking, and hanging out with her bunny, Lou.