Hundreds of student activists convened at the University of California, Los Angeles last month during the United States Student Association's (USSA) 63rd annual national student congress.
USSA is the country's oldest and largest student-led organization and represents over 4.5 million students at over 400 campuses nationwide.
Members at the student congress elected the 2010 - 2011 USSA president and vice-president, board of directors and passed a national agenda for students during the next period.
Lindsay McCluskey who was USSA's previous vice-president and graduate of University of Massachusetts, Amherst, was elected president of the student organization.
"I'm honored and excited to be in this role at a time when momentum is building in the student movement," McCluskey said in a statement.
"It's a critical time for students to be engaged in the midterm election, fighting back against severe budget cuts and tuition hikes, and defending their right to a higher education," she added.
Victor Sanchez, a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz and outgoing president of the University of California Student Association, was elected USSA's vice-president.
"The real work starts now," said Sanchez. "I'm excited and ready to help build the student movement from coast to coast and make sure education is a right and not a privilege."
USSA's new board of directors met for the first time after the conference and set the tone for the upcoming academic year and beyond.
"Sitting on the USSA board of directors with students across the US is going to be a powerful experience," said Chair Tiffany Loftin with the National People of Color Student Coalition.
Loftin, a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz added, "I look forward to the nation's reaction to our movement, because we are driven by our testimonies and empowered by each other."
Top action agenda items expected to be taken up this year by USSA include supporting a federal jobs bill to mitigate the country's historic youth unemployment as well as student advocacy in the federal budget and appropriations process, student leaders say.
USSA leaders also note students will be very active in urging Congress to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
Student activists say they plan to join the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, in its decision to call on Congress to pass the DREAM Act as a down payment on comprehensive immigration reform. Both labor and USSA support passage of the measure as a stand-alone bill.
"USSA stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the labor movement as we urge Congress to open the college doors to thousands of the nation's best and brightest undocumented students," said McCluskey.
"Access to higher education is a fundamental right and is being violated by our current education and immigration laws," she notes. "Passage of the DREAM Act will lead to and strengthen comprehensive immigration reform that will move our country closer to a truly just society."
Student leaders with USSA says the group works to develop current and future leaders and amplify the student voice at the local, state, and national levels by mobilizing grassroots power to win concrete victories on student issues.
The next national conference to be held by USSA will be the 42nd annual Grassroots Legislative Conference and National Student Lobby Day, to be held March 19-22, 2011 in Washington, D.C.
For more information about USSA go to: www.usstudents.org.