February DCs of the Month

February 7, 2013

To kick off the start of the term, we are excited to announce our February DC’s of the Month in each of our three operating sites. Read on to meet these outstanding college volunteers. 

BOSTON DC OF THE MONTH: ABBY RIDLEY-KERR, STUDENT AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY

What brought you to GC?

I first found GC during the fall of my sophomore year.  I was looking for new ways to get involved on campus and applied to be a Democracy Coach.  I liked the idea of giving youth a voice and providing them with the tools to make sustainable change in their communities.

What has been your favorite GC moment this [Fall 2012] semester?

Walking into the classroom on the first day.  I was greeted by bright, smiling, eager young people, who had elected to take part in GC and forgo a 40 minute recess period.  In that moment I was reminded of everything that had first inspired me about GC.  

How does your GC experience shape or contribute to your future academic or professional plans?

My GC experience has one hundred percent shaped my future academic and professional goals.  After I graduate in May, I will be returning home to California to serve as a City Year Corp member in San Jose.  I hope to eventually pursue a career in education policy.  I owe a large part of my passion for social justice and education reform to the experiences I have had working with Generation Citizen.

How has your GC experience impacted your views on the importance of youth civic engagement?

I’ve always known youth civic engagement was important. Now that I have seen the effects of civic engagement, I realize that it is crucial.  Once youth are given a common issue to rally around and the tools to take action on that issue the effects are astounding.  They not only recognize their own political power but also develop a more nuanced understanding of how to be an effective advocate.  They take that empowerment, reengage in their communities, and become amazing catalysts for change.

NEW YORK DC OF THE MONTH: THEODORA RAYMOND-SIDEL, STUDENT AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

What brought you to GC?

I grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, a place where I took for granted that politicians cared about what I had to say. It took me a while to realize that in many places and for many people, that simply isn’t true–many students, even adults, today, don’t have the tools to make their lawmakers listen. I wanted to be part of an organization that was taking steps to rectify that.

What has been your favorite GC moment this [Fall 2012] semester?

In my class, we asked our students to write short reflections about what they learned from GC, and put them on our posterboard for Civics Day. Reading through what the students had written was a high point for me, because they wrote about the big picture, like how they could use the strategies we discussed in GC to explore other issues in their community.

How does your GC experience shape or contribute to your future academic or professional plans?

In the back of my mind, I have always wondered whether I want to be a teacher. GC has provided me with a rare opportunity to get into a classroom and learn what teaching feels like–what makes an effective lesson, discussion, activity–and follow a project from beginning to end. Whether or not you want to pursue it in the future, you earn a different kind of confidence (and experience a different kind of terror) by standing in front of a classroom of high schoolers, asking them to trust you. 

How has your GC experience impacted your views on the importance of youth civic engagement?

We all have a duty to make sure the next generation understands that we can make changes in our communities. But it takes time and it’s a skill to be learned. Just like in Chemistry or Spanish, effective civic engagement takes careful thought and preparation. Teaching those skills is at the core of the GC experience, and if one student in my class comes away with the will to make people listen and a way to make it happen, I’ve done my job.

 

PROVIDENCE DC OF THE MONTH: JESSICA PAPALIA, STUDENT AT BROWN UNIVERSITY

 

What brought you to GC?

I was attracted to GC because it offered an unparalleled experience in working towards long-lasting change through an extracurricular activity. I believe that little can be changed in terms of racial and socioeconomic inequality in this country until the civic engagement gap is closed and education is the pathway to closing that gap. GC empowers its students to begin to view themselves as active members of a democracy by providing them with the knowledge and skill set to make critical change in their communities. I was thrilled by idea of working with students towards this goal as a Democracy Coach.

What has been your favorite GC moment?

I have many favorite GC moments. One occurred during a class period when we were doing research on our focus issue which was about school transportation. I brought in pieces of legislation regarding school transportation as well as several RI Supreme Court rulings on school transportation cases in the past. I handed out the packets with all these laws in them and expected my students would begin to lose interest as we struggled through all the legal rhetoric, as I would have done high school. Instead, I watched as, without any guidance, my students immediately took out their highlighters and started highlighting important phrases, asking me questions about specific words and heatedly arguing the implications of such court rulings on our own project. It was so inspirational to watch them focus their energy as a class on tackling challenging material, fully understanding it and relating it to their work. They did not just meet my expectations, but far exceeded them. 

How does your GC experience shape or contribute to your future or academic plans?

I want to be a teacher after graduating from Brown in May therefore part of the reason I was pulled to GC was because it offered real experience in classroom leadership. In the long-run I want to be a high school history teacher but before doing GC I was definitely intimidated by the idea of leading a class of seventeen and eighteen year olds when I was only a few years older than them. GC gave me the opportunity to prepare guided lesson plans and implement them in a supportive environment with the class’ regular current events teacher, giving me invaluable experience in running a classroom of 12th graders before I entered the teaching profession. Though I’m definitely still learning how to balance the DC role of being a mentor and even friend to my students as well as a teacher, I gained so much confidence over the course of the semester and I feel as though I greatly improved as a teacher.

How has your GC experience impacted your views on the importance of youth civic engagement?

GC has showed me in so many ways what is possible when youth are civically engaged. The potential of focusing the energy, idealism and passion of 25 youth in a single classroom together to produce change is largely untapped in our schools. GC has a well-developed curriculum that is student-directed but DC-guided, the perfect mix for producing projects that students are deeply invested in while still remaining open to learning how to reach the end goal they want. GC has also shown me how impactful it can be to create a space where student voice is respected and valued. The curriculum shows a deep respect for students’ opinions and passions and Civics Day furthers this by showing students that even decision makers value their work and their voices. 

 

 

 

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