It is with great honor that I present to you SSDP’s newest chapter, Florida International University! I spoke with rockstar chapter leader Laura Gonzalez about her experience so far and her aspirations moving forward.
How did you hear about SSDP?
I first heard about SSDP when I met Alfred Kilzi (University of Miami chapter president) at a candle light vigil on Miami Beach held for victims of the drug war. http://ssdp.org/news/blog/40years-candlelight-vigils
Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?
I was always very virtually involved with drug policy reform by keeping myself informed and sharing with friends online, so it only came naturally for me to want to do something more (anyone who knows me can tell you how much of an advocate I am!). I never really knew how or where to channel that energy until I met Alfred. It was so inspiring to see someone so young involved and speaking in front of a crowd, especially when most of the people at the vigil were older adults. Alfred suggested I start a chapter at FIU that night. I fell in love with the idea and never let it go.
What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc.
So far I have seen mixed reactions on campus. From the student angle, I have seen a slow growth of a handful of students who are just as passionate as I am. On the opposite side of the scale, finding a faculty advisor has been quite the challenge.
What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for the spring semester?
I am currently working with someone to develop an official FIU SSDP logo so that we can create a recognizable and memorable brand. I’m also trying to get a massive amount of flyers printed to cover the campus and get the word out that SSDP has finally arrived. Our main goal is to advertise the group and find an advisor who understands what we’re about and who openly supports us and the cause.
What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
The most challenging experience I’ve had so far is becoming fully recognized by FIU. It seems the professors here are quite reluctant to advise (which I’m still not completely sure why). After canvassing the campus, and after approaching more than 30 professors, I finally found one who agreed to be our advisor. She changed her mind unfortunately and backed out the last minute. It’s definitely a setback, but we’ll keep looking!
What is the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding part is connecting with other students who want to get involved and exposing the truth to those who want to learn. Seeing their enthusiasm never gets old.
What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/ssdp/drug policy right now?
I’m most interested in a bill that was introduced in the House and the Senate (that have picked up sponsors in both) that could be the beginnings of legalizing medical marijuana here in Florida. Legislators are fighting to make it to the ballot in next year’s election.
What is your vision for FIU SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?
I want to see a strong chapter at FIU that can work together with our sister chapter at UM to really start shaking things up in Miami. I also want to spread the word — educate as many students as we can — in order to create a healthy dialogue about what’s happening in our community and how we as a group can make a change.