FORMERLY A STUDENT SENATE REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE PROGRAM, ESSIG IS NOW A FULL SENATOR
By Alexander Shedd, News Assistant Editor
Madison Essig, formerly the Student Government representative for Mason LIFE, is now a full-fledged member of Student Senate.
Mason LIFE, or Learning Into Future Environments, provides support to “students with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” and provides apprenticeships to Mason students, according to their official website.
Essig, born with Down’s Syndrome, fought for a bill in Student Government last Fall that would allow Mason LIFE students to run for office. Previously, Mason LIFE students ineligible to run for and hold office under the Student Government constitution.
After the passage of the legislation, known as Madison’s Bill, she has been inducted as a full student senator for a partial term. Since becoming a student senator, Essig’s outlook on Student Government has changed significantly.
“I’ve been seeing how much Student Government cares,” she said. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘you’re doing some amazing stuff.’ Everyone has been very supportive.”
As for her goals in Student Government, Essig stated that while she now represents the student body, her main focus is still advocating for Mason LIFE. She wants students to know that “people with disabilities are here to get the same education as everyone else.”
Essig is also currently working on an initiative she believes to be important not just to Mason LIFE students, but to the whole student body. She believes that Mason’s system for inclusive housing leaves much to be desired. Essig wants to fight for on-campus housing that “services the whole community.”
As Essig explained, while there are inclusive dormitories for Mason LIFE students, they are often in generic rooms mixed with students from the general Mason population. She explained that, while this does make for an inclusive community, it can lead to problems in effective care for disabled students and their individual needs.
Essig hopes to help the Mason LIFE program advertise more effectively and believes that doing so will raise awareness of problems faced by disabled students on campus. Essig will continue advocating for Mason LIFE in Student Senate throughout the semester, and hopes to run for reelection in March to serve a full term next year.
Photo by Ibrahim Ahmad