Alexandria, La., Jan. 28, 2020 — Central Louisiana students are well represented when it comes to the state’s educational system’s supervisory boards. Ricky Brazzel, a senior at Louisiana State University of Alexandria, is the lone student representative on the LSU Board of Supervisors. Shanco Williams, a student at Central Louisiana Technical Community College, is one of two student representatives on the Louisiana Community Technical College System Board of Supervisors. Each is also the Student Body President of their respective schools. This is the first time in two Central Louisiana students are serving on multiple Boards simultaneously.
“I’m very proud of our students working in these university leadership roles,” said Dr. Paul Coreil, Chancellor of LSUA. “Central Louisiana is very fortunate to have them in these leadership positions.”
CLTCC Chancellor Jimmy Sawtelle echoed Coreil’s comments. “It’s rare to have one student representative at this level, but to have two students at the same time from Central Louisiana is incredible,” he said. “The opportunities they have had and the contacts they are making are phenomenal for them as student leaders, and the knowledge they have brought back has been of tremendous benefit to all the students at CLTCC and LSUA.”
Brazzel and Williams just returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., where they joined other student body presidents from across the state Jan. 22-26 to meet with members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation in an event called “COSBP (Louisiana Council of Student Body Presidents) Takes DC.”
“We were able to meet with the congressional delegation to talk about policy, with a focus on higher education,” Brazzel explained. “It was amazing to go up there and have them listen.”
One of the main pieces of legislation Brazzel was interested in is the College Transparency Act, a bill co-sponsored by Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy. The bill, which has attracted bi-partisan support with other chief co-sponsors of the bill including Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, South Carolina Republican Tim Scott, and Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, proposes to produce new data on program-level college student outcomes like graduate earnings and loan repayment.
“The idea is to allow students to see going in what income to expect,” Brazzel said. “They want to prevent someone from going to school and paying tuition and getting a bunch of debt and then graduating and finding out there is no market for the job or that it doesn’t pay well.”
In addition to the College Transparency Act legislation, Williams was eager to get an update on the First Step Act. The act, which was passed in 2018, requires the Attorney General to develop a risk and needs assessment system to be used by the Bureau of Prisons to assess the recidivism risk and criminogenic needs of all federal prisoners and to place prisoners in recidivism-reducing programs and productive activities to address their needs and reduce this risk.
“I got to speak with Congressman Ralph Abraham, and he was very candid,” Williams said. “While the act has been approved, they are working to get the funding. That effort has been delayed by the impeachment hearings, so it may be next year before they can get the money for the program.”
Williams said he was impressed with the Louisiana officials he met with. “I was impressed by how passionate Rep. Abraham is about education,” he said. “We met with Congressman Garret Graves from District 6. He is very in-tune with climate issues. He was very informed about the Louisiana coastline issues. I think it’s important to protect that ecosystem.”
One meeting that stood out to both Williams and Brazzel was the opportunity to meet with Congressman Steve Scalese. “I was very impressed with him,” Williams said. “The man faced a violent and life-threatening attack yet he still wants to serve. As an Air Force veteran, I felt a tremendous amount of pride.”
“We actually got to go on the House floor for the town hall with Scalese,” Brazzel said. “That was really something special.”
While they each come from very different backgrounds, Williams and Brazzel agreed having the opportunity to serve as student body president and the experiences they have had participating at the state and national level have been life changing. Williams, 44, served for 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and chose to attend CLTCC to earn an associate degree to become an architect. Brazzel is an Alexandria native who was home schooled. He plans to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in history from LSUA and then attend law school at LSU.
“I wish every student could experience this. This trip really solidified what I do and what it takes to be a good citizen,” Williams said, adding he encourages everyone to become more engaged in their community and be an active voter. “It’s important for citizens to understand the power of the vote.”
Williams said he shared photos from many of the events on social media, which prompted a text message from a friend he hadn’t heard from in several years. “She has three degrees, and she was saying she never got the kind of experience I got.”
Brazzel noted it was his second time to make this trip to Washington as he is in his second term as SGA President at LSUA. “This experience helps you grow as a leader and a student,” he said. “It helps give you a national perspective.”
While both enjoyed the trip and the opportunity to meet with the state’s national political leaders, neither said they were willing to commit to a future career in politics just yet. “I want to stay with architecture and design,” Williams said, laughing at the thought of seeking political office. “I want to be part of restoring historic areas, like the Garden District. But you know what they say, man plans and God smiles. You never know.”
Brazzel said his current focus is on completing his degree but noted, “I’m definitely interested in public service. I love truly listening to the needs of others and then taking action. You have to be willing to do more than just talk about it.”
Williams and Brazzel agreed it is crucial for students to get involved and make their voices heard. “You can shape your future,” Brazzel said. “The student voice is a powerful voice that needs to be heard.”