Generation Citizen is thrilled to host our newest NYC interns, Olivia and Michael, this summer! Below are their brief reflections on their paths to GC. Thanks, Olivia and Michael, for your dedication to GC’s mission.
Michael: I come to Generation Citizen after two years of a college experience that has transformed my personal and professional goals entirely. Today, I’m no longer the law-bound student I once was, because I have come to understand that my true passions lie in the interdisciplinary fields of community organizing, political strategy, and public policy in the context of social justice.
My journey to Generation Citizen began the first semester of my freshman year, when I took a course examining the impact of globalization on labor and capital markets. I never could’ve predicted that our two guest speakers-students of the local United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS)-would have such a lasting impact on my life and career. Through USAS and our community partners, I have been involved in four local and international solidarity campaigns, and I have seen first-hand the impact that young voices can have on the policies of enormous educational institutions and multinational corporations. The series of accomplishments our local chapter enjoyed ignited an internal dialogue surrounding the role that students must play in current struggles for justice in the labor, environment, and food-accessibility movements, especially in the context of our nation’s public schools.
As a sophomore, I helped to lead the campaign responding to the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. Our movement of students and local organizations pressured Cornell University’s administration to require retail licensees producing in Bangladesh to sign a legally-binding Accord on worker rights and safety, termed “The Accord.” This spring, we successfully saved free local bus passes for first-year university students, the slashing of which would have undermined bus drivers in their upcoming contract negotiations. These campaigns and others have solidified my belief that students are in a unique position to work with community members in transforming their civic landscapes.
I envision a day when our nation’s youth is invited to sit side-by-side community decision-makers in developing policies, practices, and ideals which can tackle the foremost social challenges of the 21st century. I believe that Generation Citizen’s action civics program provides students with the knowledge, experience, and skills to make them an invaluable asset in confronting these issues, and I hope to help facilitate the further development of its programs in the coming weeks and months. More than anything, I’m excited to be a part of the growing movement for civic engagement and action among young people in schools all around the country.
Olivia: I first learned about Generation Citizen in one of my education classes. When I heard that I would be able to get first hand experience teaching in my second year of college, I was thrilled and jumped on the opportunity. It has always been my goal to be a math teacher, and although GC teaches civic engagement, I figured it would be a good experience. I went to my school’s meeting and after my interview/mock lesson (yes I did teach a math lesson, the lattice method to be exact) I was accepted into the program.
My experience as a Democracy Coach opened my eyes to the importance of the civic engagement of our youth. The program showed me how plausible it was for students to reach out to their local government officials and actually receive a response. Throughout the semester, I was able to actively contact Staten Island’s Borough President, James Oddo, as well as local representatives in Senator Andrew Lanza’s Office. Not only were these people answering, but they were also interested in what the students and I had to say!
I find that Generation Citizen does a great job of showing the youth of our community that they have a voice. If I had been told in the eighth grade that I would be able to call and speak with someone in the Senator’s office, I would have never believed it. When the students of my class made calls, they were shocked and excited to learn that this wasn’t just a “lesson;” it had a real life application as well.
Before joining Generation Citizen, I had little to no experience with civic engagement. After my first semester as a Democracy Coach, I can gladly say that I have developed a new mindset in which there is a constant need for involvement in my community. However, as much as it is a need, it is also a want. While giving me the opportunity to have teaching experience in my second year of college, GC gave me much more, revealing an entirely new realm of knowledge and opportunity that can be easily seized.
Olivia Iacono is currently studying at Wagner College, pursuing a bachelors of science in Mathematics, with a minor in Secondary Education. Olivia decided to join Generation Citizen’s Wagner chapter in the Spring Semester of 2014. As a Democracy Coach, she led a class of eighth graders in addressing the issue of poor policy in regards to closing schools under extreme weather conditions. It was through this project that Olivia realized just how important it is for the youth to express their concerns about their community and see that they have a voice and can make a change.
From experiencing the excitement of the classroom and seeing the students’ interest in the program, Olivia hopes to help build the Generation Citizen community throughout the New York area. Next semester, she will be the Outreach Director at Wagner College.
In her spare time Olivia enjoys going to the gym, assistant coaching her old basketball team at Staten Island Technical High School, and spending time outdoors. She is also a complete math geek, making her an avid Sudoku player.