This spring, nearly 200 volunteers with Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) traveled from across the country to Washington, D.C., to speak with their representatives. The group included two Colby-Sawyer juniors, who lobbied on Capitol Hill for children’s rights. The students, along with the rest of the New Hampshire delegation, were under the leadership of Emily Johnson ’16.
This year’s annual Advocacy Summit was the largest ever, which kept Johnson busy coaching volunteers on how to call their representatives and prepping Betsida Abebe ’18 of Cambridge, Mass., and Sarah Kilham ’18 of Deerfield, N.H., to talk with Sen. Maggie Hassan.
Johnson is a field associate for SCAN, a bipartisan advocacy organization with staff on the ground in six states and headquarters in D.C., and the two days in D.C. were a culmination of a year’s work. She recruited the entire New Hampshire delegation and trained with some of them for months.
Johnson joined SCAN right after graduating with a B.S. in public health, and she attributes her professional success to her Colby-Sawyer education.
Courses like Public Health Policy and Law prepped Johnson on the ins and outs of the legal system. Now, Johnson works with the other New Hampshire SCAN staff to move the organization’s legislative priorities forward, so the background knowledge has come in handy when leading meetings between volunteers and state staffers.
Johnson completed her required internship with the Sierra Club in Concord, N.H., which jumpstarted her career with SCAN. Johnson’s internship made her more familiar with the New Hampshire legislative process, and many of her responsibilities as an intern carried over to her job with SCAN.
Just like at the Sierra Club, Johnson is responsible for recruiting grassroots volunteers. She is also in charge of mobilizing them to take action—from gathering petition signatures to writing to local papers about state developments.
When Johnson’s supervisor at the Sierra Club told her about an opening with SCAN, Johnson took the opportunity to transfer her training and knowledge to its main issues: expanding high quality early childhood education in the U.S. and ending preventable deaths of mothers and newborns abroad.
“Here in New Hampshire, we are really focused on making full-day kindergarten a statewide priority,” Johnson explains. “There’s enormous proof that full-day kindergarten and early childhood education programs like Head Start promote student health, and that benefit eventually gets passed on to the community.”
Since D.C., Johnson has remained in contact with Abebe and Kilham. The two students hosted a screening of the PBS documentary “The Class of '27”, and a panel discussion with Colby-Sawyer’s Director of Student Success and Retention Erica Webb and a representative from Head Start. Abebe and Kilham plan to establish an official SCAN club on campus next year.
“Emily is really great to work with,” said Kilham, a sociology major. “She’s really knowledgeable, and it has been a neat experience to learn from an alumna of Colby-Sawyer.”
Likewise, Johnson is happy to remain in contact with her alma mater, and she is excited to continue working for SCAN during such a pivotal moment in American politics.