Carmen Sobczak, Brown University

“...democracy is ignited when we share our personal truths.”
Carmen Sobczak was one of the first Democracy Coaches on the Brown University campus and is a current member of the Generation Citizen Bay Area Board. Carmen was 17 in 2008, too young to vote in the presidential election in her home state of California, but eager to get involved. So she joined a Get Out the Vote campaign in Washoe County, NV, a swing county in a swing state. She engaged strangers on issues they cared about and learned about what mattered to her along the way. Listening to their stories, Carmen learned that democracy is ignited when we share our personal truths. One family was passionate about prioritizing public education financing; they connected with Carmen when she described her own struggles in an underfunded urban school. The people she met through the campaign inspired Carmen to change things. When Carmen arrived at Brown, she identified GC as an opportunity to help diversify the voices influencing local policy. She couldn't wait to hear her students' opinions and was surprised to find that they knew little about each other. As she started the curriculum, however, Carmen’s students learned that some of their classmates struggled with homelessness. When things got personal, things changed in her classroom. Her students became determined to help fix this problem - organizing clothing drives, educating teachers about supporting homeless students, and supplying lists of local resources targeted at homeless youth. This became their issue, because it impacted their community.
“Change takes time, and GC Rhode Island students are still addressing homelessness today. They are learning to make the political process work at scale, to impact the issue at a citywide level, and to drive lasting change with more sophisticated civic action. We can help this trend continue. As a San Francisco resident and former Rhode Island Democracy Coach, I've seen the impact of young people taking action across the country. Action civics works. We've accomplished a lot so far, but our work is far from done.”

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