Zach Churchill nears end with CASA
Zach Churchill is preparing to appear on MTV.
But while Churchill, a Yarmouth native, might have once dreamed about playing on the music channel with his high school band Oden, his appearance — which took place following this interview last week — actually has nothing to do with music.
In his final month of a two-year term as the national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), Churchill is continuing to do the same thing he did when he first took the job and before that for two years as president of the Saint Mary’s student union — promoting accessible post-secondary education for everyone in Canada, lobbying that it is funded properly and promoting policies pertaining to education that make sense.
Reflecting on his time with CASA, Churchill says it’s been fulfilling and he’s pleased with the progress, although he notes it tends to be incremental.
“I’ve been able to work in a sector that I really enjoy,” he said last week from Toronto. “I don’t think there’s too many jobs out there that you get to really work on issues that you believe in, that you’re passionate about. So I’m really glad I had the opportunity to do this for a couple of years.”
During his time in office Churchill says he is most proud of helping to secure $2 billion in federal funding towards deferred maintenance for Canadian universities. And while such an area might not be the first thing people think of when they discuss the issue of funding for education, Churchill says the money ultimately means fewer costs for students to shoulder.
This is part of the challenge of percep- tion, he says, adding that people are beginning to understand the importance of the issues and challenges surrounding post-secondary education.
One of the biggest arguments Churchill makes for the need for across-theboard access and funding for education is an economic one, and the impact it will have on the future of the country. Seventy per cent of the new jobs created in Canada require some form of postsecondary training while only 42 per cent of the student-aged population is receiving such training. The numbers are even lower when considering young people from low income, aboriginal or rural backgrounds.
“ We’re really not in a position now as a country to allow anybody to fall behind anymore,” he says. “And it’s not just for their sakes; it’s for the sakes of all of us. I think people are starting to understand that.”
But it’s not just about money, and Churchill is the first to admit that. Recently he and other members of CASA met with the leaders of the five major Canadian political parties in the span of 30 hours. What they quickly learned, says Churchill, was that, while students and student leaders have a firm grasp on the challenges and issues facing students when it comes to post-secondary education, many politicians need to be brought up to speed. This makes education a major part of Churchill’s role with CASA.
One of the main objectives of that education process is to show government that much change can happen even without spending a lot of money but rather by focusing on legislation and policies that make things more efficient and studentfriendly.
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