On August 1, students from across the country—Dream Defenders, Moral Monday arrestees, high schoolers resisting school closings and police brutality, statewide organizers from Ohio, New York, California and beyond—will descend on Madison, Wisconsin, for the second annual National Student Power Convergence. Last year, Columbus, Ohio, hosted the first. The charge: trading tactics and experiences, elevating disenfranchised voices, linking struggles from different regions to build something bigger. Prior to this week’s convergence, The Nation spoke with Stephanie Rivera, a founder of Students United for Public Education; Alyssia Osorio, the Northeast regional organizer for Movement Summer, a program working in conjunction with the convergence; and Kirin Kanakkanatt, the convergence’s project director.
James Cersonsky: Last year was the first convergence. What kind of movement-building have you seen come out of it?
Alyssia Osorio: Out of last year’s convergence, a lot of statewide student organizations have formed, like the Colorado Student Power Alliance and the North Carolina Student Power Union. When I came to the convergence, I was a New York student, and I knew absolutely no one. Right after, I joined up with New York Students Rising. I was a part of actions regarding twenty-four-hour library accessibility at my school, then a campaign around a multicultural gender resource center on campus. Statewide, we launched a student debt campaign with Jobs with Justice.
Stephanie Rivera: Coming from the convergence, I helped start Student United for Public Education. Before then, we didn’t really see a student organization at the higher ed level that was focused on K-12 education or defending public education. Since we launched in November, we now have about eleven chapters. We’ve been going to public meetings, challenging charter schools, fighting against parent trigger laws. We had one of our chapters, in Chicago, provide a space for high school students to organize and reflect on the movement that they want to build in their own community.
Kirin Kanakkanatt: A lot of the success that we’ve seen in this past year—especially in the wake of this radical conservatism, especially as a woman of color—I think draws from coming together and seeing each other. We’re always acknowledging that every conversation that we have is contributing to the movement. Especially with groups like SUPE or Dream Defenders—it’s not something that’s happening in Egypt, or Chile, or [just] on Twitter.