By Tate Luckey
February 7 marks an important day in the Kentucky legislature, not only for politicians who are reconvening for Part II of the session, but also for student advocates like sophomore social work major Lexie Overstreet.
When not watching the NFL Playoffs or reading memoirs, her days are spent answering phones, knocking on doors, and communicating the concerns constituents have with their legislators down in the rotunda in Frankfort.
Making an impact for those who can’t
Overstreet is the current regional field organizer and former voter engagement specialist at Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates (PPAA) here in Louisville. While this means she’s not directly involved in legislation, someone like her makes a big impact. “A lot of my work is just helping people be conscious; that includes explaining to people what things are, hearing their commentary on those issues, and ultimately taking it to Frankfort,” she said.
“I try to represent a wide array of age demographics, then I set up meetings with legislators and say to them ‘Oh, this person from this district really cares about this issue and they want abortion access.’ It’s not me as the Planned Parenthood rep — it’s me as the individual. I help people feel as though they have a voice,” she described.
She and others in her role knocked on over 1,000 doors in parts of Louisville and Northern Kentucky, and it was here where she said her impact was felt the most. “I got a lot of ‘Thank you so much for being out here, doing your work,” Overstreet said. “One mom, in particular, thanked me saying that this meant the world to her because of her kids and previous experiences regarding abortion access; she wanted to be out doing this.”
For her though, changing votes isn’t the only purpose of communicating with those across the aisle. Listening and being heard are just as important. “There are people who don’t agree, which is tough, especially when you know so many people’s personal stories. But we’re still all human. It’s likely the legislation that we support isn’t going to pass, but there has been some important work done across the aisle,” she said.
Polling has shown all along that the majority of Kentuckians support access to all reproductive health options, including abortion. However, Overstreet says “the problem is the legislature refuses to listen, that’s why I’m doing everything I can to make sure Kentuckians feel heard.” Of Kentucky’s state legislature, the Republican Party holds both chambers.
Going beyond advocacy
Overstreet values her time since transferring here at U of L, saying that her classes within her social work track helped her gain perspective beyond a “U.S.-centric” lens. She was recently highlighted by the Kent School of Social Work for her efforts and involvement within her community. Being a first gen college student, though, does pose some challenges.
“It does get kind of hard sometimes because you do feel kind of misunderstood. There are a lot of expectations. The hardest part is learning to ask for help and who to ask for help from. The LBGT Center and Diversity and Equity center have been tremendously helpful in my case.”
In her case, however, asking questions is all part of the job. “You have to get over the discomfort,” she said.
She and her peer, current voter engagement specialist Andrew Meiners, run Generation Action here on campus, whose goals are aligned with advocacy work and community involvement. Even for those who are unable to regularly attend events or meetings, sharing the message is still just as impactful.
“Even in advocacy, where you advocate for equitability, there is still not equity. Sometimes for others, it’s just not physically possible, and sharing that post sometimes can be enough. I can tell people’s stories, but it’s so much more impactful coming from them. It’s important that people get to see people from Kentucky,” she said.
Photo Courtesy // Lexie Overstreet //