My name is Jane Kersch, a senior at Iowa State University, majoring in political science and environmental sustainability. I come from a middle class background, raised by a single mother who worked two jobs to put my brother and I through private school. I have seen first hand what it has been like for my mother to support her children, struggling to pay for school and healthcare.
My first real introduction to Senator Bernie Sanders came in 2014 when I began working with an organization called the United States Student Association. USSA is a grassroots organization that works to mobilize student power to win legislative victories on student issues. Sen. Sanders has been a longtime ally of USSA by prioritizing student issues during his tenure in Congress. Sen. Sanders has worked with students to make student debt and college affordability a main topic in the 2016 campaign cycle. Just this month, Sen. Sanders introduced a Robin Hood tax bill, called the College for All Act, which would tax Wall Street in order to make undergraduate tuition at public universities free.
The student debt crisis is an issue that is very important to me and my fellow students. I attend a state university, but tuition here is still unaffordable for most students. I maintain good grades that allow me to receive many scholarships and grants, including the federal Pell Grant, and have a job, but that is still not enough to cover my tuition and other living expenses. By the time I graduate next year, I will have incurred about $15,000 dollars in debt. And I consider myself lucky, seeing as the average Iowa student graduates with $29,000 in debt. Here in Iowa we have the sixth-highest level of student debt in the country.
It is crucial to me and other student that this crisis remains a key component of the 2016 cycle. Sen. Sanders has worked hard to make college affordable, which is why he continues to gain grassroots support of students across the country. I had the honor of sharing the stage with him back in December at a townhall in Ames to talk about student debt, before he had officially announced his candidacy. It means a lot to me that he is involving students in his campaign like this, allowing us to share our stories and personal experiences on key issues.
Thursday night’s Iowa campaign kick off event in Davenport was my fourth time hearing him speak, and it once again reaffirmed my belief that he is the right person for the Democratic nomination. I brought my mother to the event with me, because I wanted her to see firsthand why I’m so supportive of Sen. Sanders. To be in a room with approximately 700 other Bernie enthusiasts this early in the campaign was so inspiring. As someone who worked hard on President Obama’s reelection campaign, to hear the Senator speak of a grassroots movement even bigger than Organizing for America, I couldn’t help but smile. Being in that space I felt a revival of issue based, democratic grassroots organizing that I always feel in the presence of like minded activists.
Bernie Sanders is like no other politician out there today. He is truly a man of the people, and his passion for the issues is so obvious in the way he speaks and interacts with people. As a student, his agenda is one that resonates with me. Making college free, addressing climate change, reducing income inequality, raising the minimum wage, and providing universal healthcare are issues important to my generation. Now is the time for the political revolution that poor and working class people so desperately need, which is why I am happy to support Sen. Sanders to make that happen.