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On Wednesday, Maggard, a student at the University of the District of Columbia, stood outside congressional offices on Capitol Hill distributing a resume listing the millennial generation's skills as a part of a nationwide grassroots movement known as the Briefcase Brigade. Around the country there were large turnouts of Brigade units at district congressional offices in Dover, Del., and Tallahassee, Fla., according to spokeswoman Diane May. Other Brigade members also were expected to show up at congressmen's local offices in Boston, Kansas City, Madison, Wis., Houston, Irvine, Calif., and Santa Cruz, Calif.
Though only four students turned out for the D.C. brigade, Maggard and the three others, dressed in business professional clothing with black briefcases in hand, spent the afternoon on the Hill asking for support in their quest for Congress to take action over youth unemployment and to avoid educational funding cuts.
Jorge Madrid, 27, who works at the policy think tank, Center for American Progress, said he came to stand in solidarity with his generation even though he's employed.
"I'm hoping that some of the staffers and some of the folks that work for members can relay the message that there’s a lot of young people who want to work," he says. "I think it's a positive message. I don't think it's a knock on anyone; I just think that it should be more of a motivation."
Spillman Truhart, a 25-year-old sociology student at UDC, says pushing to block possible cuts in Pell Grants for needy college students is as important as dealing with the youth unemployment issue. Truhart received a Pell Grant in 2009, but isn’t sure he’ll receive the funding this year.
“Education is the leveling field of employment and I think people should be able to better themselves for work,” he says.
In Rockville, Md., the Briefcase Brigade achieved success, according to organizer Emily Kinkead. The 23-year-old led a small group of young people in a meeting with Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s deputy chief of staff, Bill Parsons.
“We were kind of going in expecting we would have to explain ourselves a little bit more and they were already on the same page,” she says. “They were receptive from minute one of the meeting.”
Kinkead says Parsons agreed that young people have been disproportionately hurt by the economic downturn, and no one is talking about it.
Parsons, who is also Van Hollen’s legislative director, suggested Kinkead and the Briefcase Brigade start drafting a plan or legislative action for Van Hollen and other congressmen.
That’s exactly what the Brigade had in mind, Kinkead says, and the group will keep pushing lawmakers to recognize their employment dilemma.