Issue 28 • October 2019

Humans of The Tavern

Civic Engagement

Interview by Harriet Kumah & Catherine Xie

Photograph by Catherine Xie

I got involved in community service in a wacky way. The summer before my freshman year, I realized that I had no interest in playing a fall sport, leaving me with one option: community service. I am not going to lie, free Saturday afternoons sounded super exciting. However, as I became more involved, I learned so much about the significance of community service and the difference between empathy and pity. I am infinitely grateful that I decided to join community service two years ago; it has shaped who I am right now. Civic engagement helped me build relationships with people outside my personal community. Some days, that included tutoring one kid for ten minutes, and other days, it involved working from dusk until dawn at a food pantry. Civic engagement is not a burden correlating to wealth and socioeconomic status. There is no greater or lesser responsibility assigned to each individual. The prevalent concept of helping those who are “underprivileged” creates a subconscious hierarchy. Thus, instead of interacting as person to person, one finds themselves behaving in patronizing manners and considering others as "burden." Everyone has benefitted from others’ kindness, from others’ sincere help. We all owe it to this world, this world that is suffering from so much hate, to spread as much as a single smile.

– Anya Sanchorawala, Brooks School

Despite my strong political views, I would not sacrifice any school commitments for a political cause or event. I have been lucky enough to attend a private boarding school that is very expensive. To me, skipping class or other academic commitments for the sake of politics demonstrates self-centered entitlement and ingratitude for the boarding-school experience that I’m so lucky to enjoy. It tells my teachers that I believe my time is too valuable for their class—not a message I condone under any circumstances. Additionally, my experiences in the classroom train me to be a better activist. In dedicating myself to academics, I learn the crucial communication and critical-thinking skills necessary for crafting compelling, cogent arguments. Although developing these skills is an agonizing process, particularly when I care about a political issue, I believe that my time is better spent in the classroom refining the skills I need to make a difference later in life.

– William Vietor, Exeter

Interview by Suha Choi

The powers to communicate and to listen well are integral to meaningful civic engagement, of course. Still, civic engagement is not an obligation but instead a responsibility, which is what can be so problematic about it.  Too often, people believe the problems they are having are their own individual problems, and they protect their personal pain with rabidity. When we are able, instead, to realize that we share these human problems (even when they seem personal, like a family member's illness,  the death of a beloved pet, or the loss of an opportunity), we can make the community better for everyone. Tell someone how you are feeling. Listen actively when the person responds. Share, and share-alike. Civic engagement can be the solitary acts of an individual and still add to the good of the world.  And when you can gather others together to move forward in kindness, social movements can change the quality of life.

– Ms. MaCann, St. Mark's

I think civic engagement is when you are going after a goal that involves bettering your world— people besides yourself, bettering society, and making people feel connected. 

I’ve worked in a club called “Partnership for Success,” the special education program at my [previous] school. A group of friends and I decided to create a “learning connection” (a club during the academic day), where we would play hide-n-go seek, board games, and learn braille— so we wouldn’t feel ignorant about them, and so they wouldn’t feel isolated from the rest of the school. That was really impactful for me. They’re just regular teenagers. Breaking down barriers means you learn more about people, who you may have not learned about otherwise. More so than teaching me how to type braille, it taught me how we look at brail, and think “oh, okay, whatever,” but it’s actually learning another language. You get an appreciation for how amazing people are if they can read braille, and if they can read sign language. 

I think that a lot of people when they do become engaged, they’re benefiting from it. You don’t have to, you make that decision to do so. And though they are helping others, and they are growing themselves. Nobody has an obligation, but I think they should. If they aren’t, they’re missing out on something— on an opportunity to grow, and forge connections.

– Kai Watts, Tabor

Interview by Grace Mead

For some, civic engagement more political and involvement includes voting at their local state elections and presidential elections. For others, civic engagement is more about working to make a difference in the life of those in their communities. For me, it is a combination of both because who you vote for at your local or presidential elections impact the changes that occur in your community. Civic engagement can mean whatever one wants it to mean as long as they are making a difference in some shape or form.

 

– Hutshie Faugas, Groton

“I think civic engagement is a necessary element of a democratic republic. Not only are actions like voting and protesting essential to a healthy democracy, but local engagement also motivates change on a visible level. Civic engagement provides a means for individuals to feel invested and involved in their country and government, creating a healthier political society while incorporating diverse ideas into societal decision making.”

– Willa Dubois, Milton

Interview by Grace Li

Interview by Linh Dinh & Susanna Langan 

“Just go out and talk to people. Find out what they are involved in and do not let fear stop you from trying new things. Only through experimentation can we find something new. You and I are no different. So do something totally out of the normal or just open your ears because there is a whole world out there. I believe everyone should aim to be happy. Living your life in a way that makes YOU happy is important, but if engagement isn’t a part of that, no harm no foul. Personally, I value giving to others and being involved because I would want someone to do it for me. Some people are not in a position to give back and others are required to. If you hold public office, you must be an engaged and dedicated member of your community. I am engaged because it reminds me that the world isn’t all bad. At the end of the day, I want my voice to be heard. Civic engagement is the best way to do that. ”

 

– Shameek Hargrave, NMH

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