Student advocates bring commitment to causes

Valerie Turner

Peer-led groups are backing babies, snuffing cigarettes and touting farm-to-fork 

Valerie Turner will walk through graduation ceremonies in May. But in April, it’s all about the March.

She founded the March of Dimes Club at Sac State and she and her fellow club members are raising money and advocating for the organization aimed at ensuring healthy pregnancies for mothers and their babies.

“I’ve always had an interest in prenatal care,” Turner says. “I said, ‘Hey, that could be my niche and my legacy here at Sac State, to start this organization.”

The March of Dimes Club officially launched this spring, and momentum is building, thanks in part to a highly placed ally—Sac State President Alexander Gonzalez.

President Gonzalez is the ambassador for this year’s Sacramento March for Babies, the culminating event of the fundraising year for March of Dimes. On April 26, thousands of supporters will gather near the Capitol and walk through Downtown and Old Town Sacramento to bring awareness to the cause and raise funds for March of Dimes.

Sac State’s fundraising efforts began in November, which was Prematurity Awareness Month. The WELL hosted a screening of the film “Born Too Soon” and a panel of experts hosted an informal discussion on the topic.

Lynn Hanna, an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, has been involved with the organization since 2007. She’s encouraged her students to volunteer and join the March for Babies, but Turner took the initiative to start the club.

It’s the latest example of students catalyzing for a cause. The coalition Hornets for a Healthy Hive was a driving force in the University pledging to become a smoke-free campus beginning in Fall 2015. And an Associated Students-led effort to provide additional choices for healthy food culminated in monthly ASI Farmer’s Markets on Serna Plaza.

While these efforts all share an overall push toward health, participation isn’t limited to those with an interest in health care. They also offer students the chance to gain experience in such areas as public relations, government and the non-profit sector.

And Sac State’s proximity to the State Capitol affords students a unique chance to affect change.

“This is an opportunity for students across campus to get exposure to a number of fields,” Hanna says. “’How do non-profits work? What is the process of lobbying? How do lows get passed and who writes them?’ They can go to the Capitol, meet people and get hands-on experience,” Hanna says. “Students can be involved in advocating. There are a lot of avenues in that regard.”

As the March for Babies ambassador, Gonzalez is rallying students, faculty and staff on campus, as well as the Sacramento community. Individuals can sign up to join a team, or raise money individually. The goal is to raise $200,000.

“It would be great if everyone on campus contributed a dime,” Hanna says. “It’s not too difficult to be involved, or to appreciate March of Dimes. They don’t have a political agenda. Their mission really is singular: to improve maternal health and the health of babies.”