A political advocacy group founded by Pasco students a year ago is taking its efforts to Washington, D.C.
Jared Costanzo, 18, president and founder of the Student Voice Project, said Friday that he will be establishing an office for the organization in the nation's capital when he heads there this fall to attend American University.
He's already registered the group as a non-affiliated political action committee with the Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service.
Members of the Student Voice Project said they're still working through the transition and recruiting officers but were optimistic about their ability to get policy makers, locally and nationally, to consider student input on issues.
Never miss a local story.
"I think it's going exactly where it should be going," said Executive Director Sergey Gorbatyuk, 19.
Student protests in Chile in 2011 inspired Costanzo to start the group last summer with classmate Le'Ana Freeman.
Gorbatyuk, a former student body president at Pasco High School and former student representative on the Pasco School Board, joined the group soon after.
Gorbatyuk and Costanzo, who was student body president at Chiawana High in Pasco, said the group represents student interests when it comes to policy decisions by local school boards but also by city, county and state governments.
Costanzo said the group was involved in efforts challenging a Kennewick School Board decision banning noncurricular student clubs, a move some said was meant to stop a student gay-straight alliance group from meeting. The board reversed its decision in September after the ruling affected other student organizations.
The Student Voice Project officers also has continued to attend some school board meetings in the Tri-Cities and tried to start up an Eastern Washington Youth Summit, but that effort has fallen through.
Costanzo said the biggest challenge has been fundraising and is one of the reasons the group filed paperwork to become a PAC.
"It means we're able to raise unlimited amounts from whoever we want," he said.
Gorbatyuk said the organization still is working through the transition. The group will remain active in the Tri-Cities and members are looking for a new president to serve locally.
The Student Voice Project doesn't have a specific agenda yet, partially because it will depend on who's in office following this fall's elections, but also because that agenda will largely depend on what their constituents say.
"What we hear from them is going to shape our actions and views," Costanzo said.
Anyone wanting to contact or donate to Student Voice Project can visit the organization's website at www.svppac.org.