Winona State activist invited to White House


Mercedes Johnson

“The university didn’t send me to D.C., but I was representing the university as a whole because I discussed issues around campus,” Weis said.

Olivia Prondzinski, News Reporter

Winona State student Jessica Weis recently had the opportunity to visit the White House in Washington D.C. Weis attended Vice President Kamala Harris’ meeting on reproductive rights with other student leaders.

VP Harris convened 75 student leaders from colleges and universities across 33 states to discuss the fight to protest reproductive rights on Oct. 14.

Weis is currently interning for Planned Parenthood Generation Action and is Co-President for the WSU Reproductive Justice Club. Weis was asked to attend the discussion just days before the event.

“They called me up and asked if I wanted to go to D.C. and I said yes, of course,” Weis said.

After Weis agreed to go, she was then asked to prepare a speech after another speaker dropped out. Weis only had about 20 minutes to decide the topic of her speech. In Weis’ speech she discussed how her life has put her in an interesting positing being born to two deaf parents.

“I think of my job as a direct care professional, working with people with intellectual disabilities. I always find myself uplifting and valuing their rights and freedom,” Weis wrote.

In her speech, Weis stated that while Minnesota is currently a safe haven state for abortion, it does not necessarily mean that it is accessible for all.

As Co-President of the WSU Reproductive Justice Club, one of Weis’ current missions is bringing Plan B and medication abortion to campus.

“Winona State University is situated in a location where the nearest pharmacy isn’t walkable and the closest grocery store does not have the essentials needed for our reproductive health,” Weis wrote.

Unfortunately, Weis was unable to deliver her speech at the event due to someone taking up longer than their allotted time.

“I immediately started tearing up and our group leader was so sweet and comforted me,” Weis said. White House officials were made aware of Weis’ situation and made sure VP Harris heard her message. The media team ended up recording Weis’ speech to be put on VP Harris’ Instagram page.

“I was more so upset because I was speaking on behalf of my community and I also mention that my parents are deaf, I work with people with disabilities and I just felt like they were pushed off to the side and a lot of people don’t think about that,” Weis said.

Not only was Weis’ speech recorded for VP Harris, but Weis got to be a part of an interview with the White House Media Team to be shared with thousands of people.

“The university didn’t send me to D.C., but I was representing the university as a whole because I discussed issues around campus,” Weis said.

During Weis’ stay in D.C. she was unable to experience the city due to the busy itinerary, however, visiting D.C. on behalf of reproductive justice is an experience Weis will never forget.

Weiss visiting the exterior of the White House in Washington D.C. (Contributed by: Jess Weiss)