By Alex Fleming
Earlier this week, Keith Thornton Jr., a senior in the College of Arts, Sciences and Education, testified before Congress, something most students will never have the opportunity to do.
Thornton spoke before the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted his education and career development and how critical the support provided by the CARES Act and Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplement Appropriations Act provided was to staying on track to graduate.
“When the pandemic hit, my education was disrupted. I had to suspend my internship, and I lost my job. I had been working for two months before the start of the semester, which enabled me to move into an apartment and forgo taking out additional loans,” Thornton said. “Losing that income was a heavy blow. So, it was a great relief when a few weeks later, I received emergency funds from FIU that were made available through the CARES Act. This aid helped me purchase school supplies and keep up with bills.”
The FIU student was invited to speak by U.S. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-FL), chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee. This was her first hearing serving as chair. Wilson is also the founder of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence project, a student mentorship project that started when she served on the Miami-Dade County School Board. Thornton was a former scholar of the program and is now a Wilson Scholar at FIU.
“I would urge you to continue to provide support for students who are most in need. We represent the future. And I, like many of my counterparts, want to use my degree to make an impact,” said Thornton in his testimony. “Many students would benefit from the effort to double the Pell Grant.”
Thornton is set to graduate this summer with a degree in recreation and sports management, thanks to the federal stimulus funds. He hopes to open a gym or become a trainer.
Since the start of the pandemic, FIU students have benefited from Congressional stimulus action. Nine thousand FIU students have received aid through the first round CARES Act. Nine thousand also recently received support through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplement Appropriations Act.
As the pandemic continues to loom, Congresswoman Wilson and subcommittee members will continue to address solutions regarding student loan forgiveness and increase aid for universities.
FIU in Washington, D.C., is an integrated advocacy approach aimed at increasing FIU’s national reputation and federal support for FIU’s preeminent and emerging preeminent programs, faculty and students. The FIU in DC team collaborates with academic units to provide learning experiences and support the placement of students and alumni in internships and permanent employment.