Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Putting Idealism to Work # 96

By Lauren McDade, Corps Member serving at Springarn High School

Choosing just one way of “Putting Idealism to Work” is challenging. Like good quotes, there are many PITWs I could count as my favorites. If I have to narrow it down to one that encapsulates my motivation and drive within City Year though, the top spot has to go to PITW #96, “Civic Engagement, Not Traditional Politics, Is City Year’s Vehicle for Change.”

In May 2010 I graduated from Towson University with a BA in Political Science and as an undergraduate I did everything from canvass for a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates to frequent DC more for political protests than sight-seeing. By junior year I was growing weary of the ways one is usually engaged in politics and was first introduced to the concept of “civic engagement,” or individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern, in an elective class for my major. From that point on I decided to channel my love of politics into civic engagement rather than traditional partisan politics.

I had already decided I wanted to do a year of service after I graduated when I first learned about City Year. I was visiting Boston when a red jacket on the train caught my eye and through the magic of Google I found myself quickly enamored with an organization who’s mission was to build democracy through citizen service, civic leadership, and social entrepreneurship. This in addition to City Year’s unique focus on education, the policy area that I had already decided to focus my career on, and I knew I had found my match.

I began my foray into political science with my sights set on the hallowed halls of the Capitol Rotunda and views of the Washington Monument. Now I spend my days debating the merits of healthier cafeteria food with my 9th graders who have little use for the national politicking in their hometown outside of how it effects what they’re having for lunch that day. Though my interest in more traditional forms of politics hasn’t gone away, I’m grateful that my service year has already shown me how I can be engaged while being focused around politics for people rather than just politics for sport.

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