‘This is grassroots: just authentic’

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If there’s one word I do not associate with the frantic struggle against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, it’s “fun.” But when I called a stranger more than 6500 miles away who’s in the thick of that fight, she reminded me that fun is a key component of activism, even when the stakes are dire.

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(Courtesy of Alyse Surratt Galvin/Via Facebook)

Three years ago, Alyse Surratt Galvin, 51, attended a school board meeting to find out why funding cuts were threatening the job of her kids’ beloved art teacher; she went on to co-found Great Alaska Schools, a non-partisan advocacy group focused on quality public education statewide. The educational consultant and mother of three eventually stepped back from her consulting work to focus on the organization full-time.

Great Alaska Schools supporters made headlines across the country last week when they took on their first national education issue, flooding the offices of Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan to ask them to oppose DeVos. Murkowski then announced she would oppose the nomination, telling the Alaska Dispatch News that the estimated 30,000 calls her office had received were “overwhelming.”

As I scrolled through the story, a woman with a megaphone caught my eye. Who was she? How did she get there, and how were Alaskans creating such a vibrant movement?

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