Three Keene State College students received the chance to go to Washington D.C. and accept an award that recognizes KSC’s civic engagement through community partnerships that address issues of public concern.




KSC was one of five colleges chosen to receive the award out of several hundred nominations, said Ashley Betancourt, who was one of the students selected to go on the trip, along with Zachary Howe and Rebecca Reeves.

The three students were selected to go on the trip through a vote by KSC faculty members, said Project Manager for Diversity and Multiculturalism Initiatives Kimberly Schmidl-Gagne.

Schmidl-Gagne said the award comes with the chance to attend the 2018 Inside Washington Institute that is offered by the Washington Center.

Schmidl-Gagne said, “The award comes with the scholarship for the Washington Center so one of the students received free tuition and housing because we won the award and we also established a second award that was worth $3,000 and two other students were able to receive $1,500 each from that scholarship. Those students also got support from the Student Conference Fund and from our American Democracy Project to help cover some of their additional costs.”

Howe said the Inside Washington seminar was based on media and political advocacy and included speakers from all across the political spectrum and site visits to places such as the Embassy.Betancourt said some of the speakers at the seminar included current U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy and both campaign managers from the 2016 presidential election.

“I enjoyed hearing the other side. It made me understand even if I don’t necessarily agree with the other side it’s vital to know the other argument,” said Betancourt.

Betancourt said one part of the trip was writing a prompt based on a social issue that is currently in the forefront; she did hers on immigration.

“We have seen that the media has been covering it frequently, we’ve seen this administration focus on immigration rhetoric recently so I think that is definitely important,” Betancourt said.

Howe said that one major part of the trip was how it showed him the possibilities after college. “It opened my eyes up to career opportunities such as think tanks and showed the importance of networking. It gave me a greater understanding and the opportunity to connect with people in D.C,” Howe said.

Betancourt said the experience helped her mindset regarding career opportunities as well. “I’m thinking of going to law school so I think it’s important to know the other argument and even if you don’t agree with it just to know your argument for a good debate. Now I can better explore where I want to be in life and what I want to do. I think D.C. is a great environment for social issues, social change and politics. Millenials and young people run the place basically, as we saw in Washington. So hopefully after graduation next year I will go to D.C. and start working there,” said Betancourt, who added that it is important for college students to network on campus and be opinionated with political issues.

Colby Dudal can be reached at

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