by Ellen Bacon, Seton Hall University
There are no words that can adequately describe the well of emotions the moment I first stepped into the largest business meeting in the country. Seeing almost 10,000 preservice, active, and retired members gathered in Washington, D.C., was incredibly humbling, and being the President of NJSEA gave me the opportunity to contribute my voice, which was overwhelming and unforgettable.
Thinking back to that moment, I remember it started like a party – beach balls being bounced around and music playing. However, we quickly got down to business, and shortly “aye” and “no” filled the room as we persisted through Standing Rules, New Business Items, Amendments, and more.
We were also honored to host Hillary Clinton, and spirits were high that day. A massive crowd of supporters came in their “Educators for Hillary” shirts and cheered as they waved signs and banged thunder sticks in anticipation of her arrival. It was quite a spectacle to see a sea of blue banners.
The moment that was the most exciting for me, personally, happened on the last day of the RA. We were faced with what seemed like more business than we had completed in the previous three days. At the morning caucus, we were discussing New Business Items, and before I knew it, shockingly, an item had been opposed that positively affected the preservice program. I took it upon myself to question the rationale, and, with the help of the leadership team, we were able to reconsider the vote. I saw this as a major victory for our members, and it showed the power of the preservice voice. It seemed to truly change active members’ perception of us as pre-service members in the union and as voices at the RA.
I am so grateful to New Jersey and to all of our preservice members for giving me the opportunity I had at the NEA-RA. It is truly something I will never forget, especially one so early on as my time as President. I cannot wait to see the changes and impact this year’s NJSEA leadership team will accomplish.