By Amber Austin, Christina Melecio and Tyler Ferrari, #CLDE17 Student Interns
Hello readers! We are the 2017 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting student interns, and we are happy to be working with the planning committee this year to create the wonderful #CLDE17 conference. In addition to helping with the ideas for the conference as a whole, we are also tasked with planning a student symposium where we will be discussing important and relevant topics with the student attendees. Before this happens, however, we would like all attendees to get to know us better, so we created a Q&A between the three of us where you get to learn more about our views on civic and community engagement. We hope you enjoy it!
Amber Austin, Sophomore, Tarrant County College (Texas)
Christina Melecio, Sophomore, Winona State University (Minn.)
Tyler Ferrari, Sophomore, Chapman University (Calif.)
What do you do for campus involvement?
Amber: For campus involvement, I am a member of eight clubs, for which I am the president of two and an officer in several others.
Tyler: I plan and moderate deliberative dialogues on important issues ranging from homelessness to gun control.
Christina: I am fairly involved with my campus. I hold a position in Student Senate where I sit on several committees that make decisions that affect the university. I am also the president of Political Science Association, and the treasurer of College Democrats.
How did you get involved in TDC/ADP/NASPA?
Amber: I became involved in The Democracy Commitment because of two of my professors during my freshman year. My professors asked me to help them with a “Know Your Candidate” project and it blossomed from there.
Tyler: My supervisor had me apply for this position, and many of our programs are modeled after NASPA programs!
Christina: One of my friends was the intern for ADP on my campus and often needed volunteers at events he organized. I was able to volunteer and then got to know the professor who runs ADP on my campus.
What are you looking forward to most at this year’s conference?
Amber: At this year’s CLDE conference, I am looking forward to our student symposium the most. That is our chance, as student interns, to hear the other students’ voices on universal issues, as well as to get to know the students that are attending the conference.
Tyler: Meeting other students and gaining their knowledge on civic engagement along with their experience.
Christina: I am so excited to get a diverse perspective from students that attend the conference. I am also excited for the moderating that will take place.
What has been your most enjoyable moment in the planning process for the 2017 CLDE conference?
Amber: The most enjoyable moments I have had during the planning process of this year’s conference are the conference calls with the other two interns. Being an intern for this event is very enjoyable especially since I can share it with two other people.
Tyler: Working with the rest of the committee, especially my fellow interns! They have been great and easy to work with.
Christina: Meeting other people who have a passion who being involved, and getting others involved. I have especially enjoyed the time with the other two interns, and the topics we have been able to discuss.
In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of civic engagement involvement? What is your experience in this type of engagement?
Amber: I believe the most important aspect of civic engagement involvement is the impact working in the community makes. Working to make a difference in civic life is important in itself, but the impact is what counts. My experience includes, know your candidate campaigns, student voter registration programs, and campus/community trash clean-ups.
Tyler: Getting people interested in local issues is the most important. I’ve worked on campaigns before and I really enjoyed telling people about the issues our campaign focuses on. It was always rewarding to have people involved in the community.
Christina: I think that the most important aspect of civic engagement has to deal with education. Educating people on the issues, so they do not blindly support one way or the other without much thought or background knowledge.
What is your favorite thing about engaging in your community politically, socially, etc?
Amber: My favorite thing about engaging in my community is meeting and communicating with new people to understand their situations, as well as, their thought process regarding social and political issues.
Tyler: Meeting the different people and talking about their experiences. Especially in a state like California, there are so many diverse viewpoints and learning about as many as I can is very rewarding and helps me shape my view of the world.
Christina: My favorite part of becoming engaged in my community, whichever way, is the people who I connect with. Each person has a different perspective, or background, and being able to hear and understand them is what makes me excited.
What is one thing you wish you could change about our political climate?
Amber: Due to the previous presidential election, our political climate is scattered. Many are angry and many have given up. If I could change anything with the political climate, I would bring the divided back together, so we can make a change as a unit.
Tyler: Discourse must me more civil, without the civility that politics normally provides, nothing useful and good for society will get accomplished. Politics has centered too much around tribalism and I think breaking that mindset is something that is important to do.
Christina: I think currently the political climate could use a few adjustments, mostly having to deal with the divided nature of society.
Tell us about an experience of when you tried to engage students?
Amber: I tried to engage students in the biggest way during our last presidential election. My main focus was getting students to care about their community and realize that their vote does matter.
Tyler: Registering people to vote before the election. We worked at our school’s freshman orientation and we were able to register so many new voters!
Christina: I have done different democratic deliberations, and it is a challenge in order to get students engaged in the conversation. There are many students who don’t want to participate in the conversation, and it is a struggle to have them bring their opinions to the deliberation. More often than not, putting effort into someone they will return it.
How did you become an engaged student?
Amber: I became an engaged student because of The Democracy Commitment. Before I joined TDC, I would go to class and go straight home. They helped me realize how much of a difference one person can make in a community.
Tyler: My mom was always politically engaged and really got me involved in local politics.
Christina: I have always naturally been someone who enjoys being active in clubs, and the next step was to become engaged in other activities. Ranging from student government, or local politics, I have always wanted to participate in the life that is happening around me.
What do you think the number one issue is facing the society today?
Amber: I think the number one issue facing society today is inequality.
Tyler: The loss of social capital. People are simply not involved in their communities anymore and I think that is harming society as a whole.
Christina: I would have to say that the biggest issue facing society today is racial tensions. Most problems today seem to concentrate around this particular issue.
Thank you for reading our Q&A! We appreciate you getting to know us and we hope to see you around the conference and at our student symposium. The student symposium is a free event where students will be able to discuss many relevant political and community issues. To register for this session, click HERE, and bring an open mind and a willingness to have a dialogue with other students. The symposium is a great opportunity to relax and get to the other students at the conference, and to learn valuable insights and skills from students across the country. This is an opportunity that should not be passed up!