by Ashlee Brown
When I first heard that I was invited to the 2nd Annual Civic Leadership Conference on November 15th, I was confused. What did I, a sophomore Biochemistry major, have to do with Civic Leadership? After I found out that the event was related to Indiana’s service learning program, Indiana Campus Compact, it became a little bit clearer. Despite this, I still did not see what I could contribute to this conference.
When we arrived it became crystal clear. The connection between service learning and civic leadership was a circle. While listening to the first panel, which consisted of DePauw University graduates, a DePauw student, an Indiana State Senator, and an Indiana State Representative, I understood the relation. When you become involved with Service-Learning you begin to see needs that are not being met in your community and room for improvement. Which leads to the main point of the first panel. This panel talked about an Environmental program that was started by a DePauw affiliate called DEPP. This group took a local interest of theirs about the environment in their community and lobbied for it in the Indiana Statehouse during Environmental committee meetings. They took a stand for a local cause they believed in and worked for change for the better in their community through local civic leadership. They found an issue in their community through outreach and took it upon themselves to make change; they came full circle. This was a very good example of how students can make our communities a better place to live and work.
During these panels the process for reaching your senators and representatives became very clear also. All you had to do is look up who represents your community and reach them through these open committee meetings at the Statehouse, or even through emails and letters. And the best part of it is that the Senators and Representatives told us themselves that our input helps them in the decision making process. If you have a good argument and factual information to support your ideas and issues, chances are they will listen and be affected by your input.
Another great part of this conference was listening to the panel members talk about Higher Education, which is extremely pertinent if you are going to college. The panels consisted of more Indiana legislators and people from Education committees in Indiana, including Teresa Lubbers. They discussed how legislation that is passed at the Statehouse affects each and every student, and deals with topics such as education standards and financial aid. Then after they were done presenting this information we were able to discuss these topics personally with the panels have our questions answered.
Along with learning all this interesting and pertinent information from the panels we were also able to do some valuable networking with other students from Indiana universities and colleges. I met students from nearly ten different schools and have formed several new connections.
This conference was an extremely informative and invaluable experience no matter what your background or major. Knowing all the new things I do now, I can further apply my interest in service to better my community more knowledgeably. Anyone at IU East can become involved in service-learning and projects! Just contact the Center for Service-Learning: firstname.lastname@example.org.