When I tell classmates or locals about my political action committee, The StudentImpact, they jokingly ask for my age. After all, how many twenty year olds have PACs? These organizations are typically associated with the likes of Organizing for Action, Heritage Action, or even Stephen Colbert’s SuperPAC. The StudentImpact is a political action committee in that sense. In another, however, we are totally distinct. We push for advocacy on the local level, for students and by students, in a nonpartisan way. There’s no ego involved either – I formed this organization because I identified an issue, and an approach that would be a great gateway to real life political operations. What can get better than that?
I’ve had people come up to me and ask where and how I got started with the project. The StudentImpact came from a cumulative experience I had at W&M. It’s certainly a journey from daydreaming to development. While I found this process trying at times, it is always worth value when you believe in it. The StudentImpact first started out as a registered student organization my freshman year, and never took off. The idea was resuscitated a year later, by the end of my sophomore year, through which it operates in its current form. This blog series weaves my personal experiences with a big idea. That idea was modified over and over again, until a model fit. This series also serves to show just how excited I get about politics, and how crucial it is to engage in politics, especially in this day and age. In the end, I hope you can take a piece from my narrative and use it to further your own passions, ideas, and interests.
My first political experience did not start with a campaign, or a Capitol Hill internship. It started on Election Day, 2012. I was hired as a full time Election Officer during a presidential election year, and I credit that experience as providing me the base for my political interests and aspirations. At the time, I found that being both an Elections Officer and a first time voter was fulfilling. Also, I was getting paid! It was a win-win situation. As an Election Officer, we had one lengthy training session prior to Election Day. The Voter Registrar and Electoral Board members brief the paid attendees on the rules of engagement with voters, and on how to use the electronic software systems. On Election Day, I had an overall positive experience with the staff and voters, refueling my interest in pursuing politics.
From my experiences as an Election Officer, I observed firsthand our foremost democratic privilege: voting. These experiences furthered my interest into voter registration efforts across the country, and the political participation among my generation known as the millennials (For these purposes, let’s say anyone between the ages 18-29). Now, voter registration is a core asset of The StudentImpact. This experience filled me with optimism, but I would later identify a two fold issue that convinced me that voter registration was vital for social change. On the broad end, there’s a growing disenfranchisement in our generation. Many of us choose community service as a more “positive” way to bring about social change. Social change cannot happen, however, without engaging with the political process, as I would later learn in a Community Studies course. Later on, I began to piece together complicated City issues that brought divide between the William & Mary students and the greater Williamsburg population. Through voter registration efforts, this divide was briefly reconciled by adding a student voice in government: our first student member of city council.