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Sbeydeh Viveros-Walton

Sbeydeh Viveros-Walton, On the Road with Public Advocates

Sbeydeh Viveros-Walton joined Public Advocates in early 2021 as the founding Director of Higher Education. She is a proud graduate of all three public segments in California. Sbeydeh leads Public Advocates’ higher education team’s work to eliminate barriers to college access and completion for low-income/first-generation/BIPOC students in California. 

San Francisco to Atlanta

This is the first out-of-town conference I’ve attended in over 3 years anddare I say it? I’m excited! I’ll be co-presenting a bill that bans scholarship displacement benefiting over 1 million low-income students in California. I’ve been working on this bill for three yearswell before my time at Public Advocates. By the way, in case you’re unsure what “scholarship displacement” means, here’s a definition:  “Scholarship displacement is a practice in which one form of a student’s financial aid, like a university grant, is reduced or canceled when the student receives an outside scholarship.”  So unfair, don’t you think!?  Also, there are things y’all should know: This is my first time away from my 16 month-old son, I’m three hours ahead of West Coast time, and I’m a museum fanatic. 

Nametag for National College Attainment Network’s (NCAN) annual conference “Advancing the Right to Postsecondary Attainment,” Atlanta, Georgia and reservation for tour of the birth home of Martin Luther King, Jr..

I’m currently in Atlanta, Georgia at the National College Attainment Network’s (NCAN) annual conference “Advancing the Right to Postsecondary Attainment.” It’s a three-day conference and I’m trying to fit in my scheduled presentation, a radio interview on West Coast time, happy hours, catch-ups with colleagues, and check out some local historical museums.  

Conference Day 1 – Monday 

I got in late the night before, but I was so thrilled to be in a community that I barely felt the 3-hour time difference. I head down to the convening and the room is full of energy. I bump into some colleagues from Washington, DC and high five on the Pell Grant award increase and FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) wins! Three years ago, we lobbied together at Capitol Hill to #DoublePell and on FAFSA simplification. I see former colleagues from the Bay Area and I’m so happy to hug them and catch up. We make plans to see each other at an evening happy hour sponsored by the Northern California College Promise Coalition (NCCPC). OK, this is pretty cool! 

It’s time for my prep session with Sumeet Bal, our communications director.  She secured a live interview with Radio Bilingüe’s “Linea Abierta” on Tuesday, 2:30 ET (11:30 PT) to chat about Remedial Education Reform and Scholarship Displacement.  I’m nervous because the interview is in Spanish. Sumeet and I chat about the interview, what to expect and what I should work on. We wrap up and I head downstairs again for the last session of the day.  

Official conference activities are over, so I head back upstairs and finalize my presentation. The presentation is scheduled for 8:30 am ET (5:30 am PT) on Tuesday. I’m plugging away at my interview prep document when I get a ring from my spouse with an update on our little. I can hear his delightful squeals and our dog barking in the background. He can tell I’m feeling a bit guilty and gently reminds me to enjoy my time awayall is good on the home front. 

The nudge reminds me to unplug and head to the NCCPC’s happy hour. Spending time in community with our NorCal folks was delightful! We’ve seen each other on zoom but not in person. We reflect on the fact that we had to come all the way to Atlanta to make this happen! 

I head back to my room and call my husband to say goodnight. He wishes me luck on the presentation and the interview.  

Conference Day 2 – Tuesday 

The adrenaline fades and waking up at 7 am ET (4 am PT) is harder than I thought. “Responsible Me” laid out clothes, organized the presentation materials, and packed the purse the night before because she knew that “Sleepy Me” wouldn’t have the wherewithal to make it out the door in time. 

Jason Vasquez, Ms. Michele Waxman Johnson and Sbeydeh Viveros-Walton, presenters of “Hands Off My Scholarship,” at NCAN’s annual conference.

I meet up with my session co-presenters and we are ready to roll! Our presentation is up and running, I play some jams to bring up the energyit’s the first session of the dayand we have a good showing of attendees! The Q&A is peppered throughout the presentation and we brainstorm on displacement scenarios currently happening in other states. Just like that, the hour is over, and the team sets up shop outside because we still have so many more questions to answer. 

I head back to my room to take a quick nap and finalize talking points for the show. Radio Bilingüe is the leading Latino public radio network and content producer for the nation’s public broadcasting system. Affiliate stations throughout the country carry Linea Abierta, RB’s call-in talk show. Needless to say, the stakes are high. Sumeet calls once again to check-in and give me some last-minute pointers for the 30-minute interview on Remedial Education Reform and Scholarship Displacement. It takes a little bit for my brain to settle in “Spanish only mode,” but the interview is over in a flash. I hit my talking points AND I think I did pretty well! 

Hear Sbeydeh’s interview.

The jitters are over, and now I get to enjoy the rest of the conference and start figuring out what sites I can visit on Wednesday before I catch my flight home.  

Conference Day 3 – Wednesday 

The conference is over in the morning, and I have just enough time to see two places that are important to me. I have a few hours to explore Atlanta before my 7:30 pm flight, and I settle on Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. 

The MLK Historic Site includes the Civil Rights Walk of Fame and the museum. I also visit Dr. King’s childhood home, two blocks away from the historic Ebenezer Baptist Churchwhere Dr King and his father preached. Finally, I spend time at Dr. King and Mrs. Coretta Scott King’s tombstone, paying tribute to their incredible contributions to our country and the civil rights movement. All of these sites are located within walking distance in the “Sweet Auburn” neighborhood, the center of center of black Atlanta. I imagine a bright and joyful “Little ML” (his nickname as boy) and then later when he arrives at Ebenezer Baptist Church to preach alongside his father just two blocks down from where he grew up.  This site punctuates three moments in time that would change our country’s history: ML’s childhood, Dr. King’s rise to prominence and the tragic loss of his life. My heart is heavy but somehow the energy in this space ignites the call to continue to work towards Dr. King’s vision for a “beloved community”.  

“While mugshots aim to dehumanize and criminalize, the life size, highly detailed portraits offer a counter narrative, illuminating the leadership and sustained labor of women to the boycott’s success.”

I head to Spelman College and am invigorated by the energy of being on campus. I finish my walking tour at the Museum of Fine Art and check out an exhibit titled “Mugshot Portraits: Women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.” 

After spending the better part of the day exploring Atlanta. It is time to grab a bite to eat and head to the airport. I couldn’t leave without enjoying proper soul food, so I met up for a late lunch with NCAN friends from Portland. The fried chicken and fixings were scrumptious and with a satisfied belly I settled into the 5-hour flight to the Bay Area. 

I’m eager to head home and see my family but I’m so grateful for the solo time to step away and to learn, grow and broaden my appreciation for our work in Education Equity at Public Advocates. My gratitude to the Public Advocates Higher Education Team and my husband for holding it down while I was away. 

Muchisimas Gracias!