The Buckeye senior-year experience is a unique one filled with opportunities, challenges and fond memories. This is also true for a Buckeye senior experience away from campus. I am one of nine students participating in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs’ Washington Academic Internship Program. I like to refer to WAIP as a “study domestic,” as it has the same experiential learning and holistic focus as a study abroad program, without the actual international location.
My cohort and I are interning everywhere from the United States Department of Justice, to Battelle. I am interning on The White House Community Solutions Team. Everyone in the program is busy, and we all put in significant amounts of time on work, a mandatory public affairs class and 20-page capstone paper, networking events and our Friday outings to various sites across our nation’s capital. Also, factor in studying for graduate school admissions exams or applying to jobs for after graduation. This program is certainly a challenge.
Even with this demanding schedule, myself and members of my cohort find ways to have an impact back in Columbus. I am serving on a statewide voting rights panel, called Let Ohio Vote. I use my voice and my spare time to help ensure that all Ohioans, and out-of-state students, have the right to vote. My board has intervened when voters were purged from the rolls. I helped get the word out on how voters can register and access the polls on Nov. 8. I worked with Young Progressives Demanding Action with Ohio State’s Kelly Schroeder, who wanted to disseminate information about voting for out-of-state students. I even helped make a video advocating for voting rights restoration, and reminding voters when to vote. I asked a friend of mine from high school to write a rap, and we made an animated video to accompany it.
Those who follow me on Twitter know that I use the #LetOhioVote hashtag very frequently. I’m happy to lose a few followers for sharing voter inspiration if it means that one of my peers gets motivated to vote — perhaps we could coin the term, “votivated”?
All jokes aside, I share my thoughts not to simply remind The Lantern’s readers that Nov. 8 is Election Day, but instead because advocacy, even while away from your hometown or campus, is important. We have a responsibility to engage with the communities that we are from and help when we can. I know that I have the ability to go the extra mile and fight for the rights of my peers and for other Ohioans to vote, so I use that ability, and fight for vulnerable voters.
There has been an interesting change in tone amongst politicians and in political messaging. Leaders are asking — and sometimes begging — younger people to make their voices heard. Compare this to depictions of political engagement with younger generations from the 1960s through the 1990s, where the notion that with time and age comes ability. Those days are gone. As the Baby Boomer generation is phasing out, our generation is phasing in. We’re larger than the Baby Boomer generation, and we are markedly more diverse and connected to one another as technology and information swirls the planet. Progress and process will halt if we halt. If we don’t take up the mantle of participation, government and society devolves to a stalemate.
I encourage all of my fellow Buckeyes to vote. Vote early or send in that absentee ballot that’s sitting on your pile of homework. When you are done voting, assess the issues that you can help affect for the next election, and every election after that. If you are on campus, join a group that is fighting for similar causes that you are advocating for, or build coalitions with other student groups.
If you are away from campus, like me, utilize the gift of modern technology, and get connected to causes back home! If you lay some roots down before you depart from campus, by reaching out to organizations and making arrangements, you can deliver real outcomes on campus, in the community and in the state. All it takes is passion, proactivity and commitment. When it is all said and done, and you return to OSU, take that moment to enjoy the impact that you have on campus.
“I wanna go back, I gotta go back to O-hi-o.”
The Ohio State that I want to go back to is one in a condition that is better than I left it in. This is why I do what I can to advocate from afar, and this is why I encourage my peers to do so as well. We are all busy with class, teams, groups, student organizations and beyond. But making time for some form of issue advocacy ensures that the gifts of your work is passed on to someone else. I can’t think of a better way to pay it forward.