The Faces of Civic Engagement
Samuel Pittman: GALEO Intern
August 14th, 2018
As my time as a GALEO intern comes to an end, I have learned a lot about the Latinx community, the impact policy has on our friends and neighbors, and how we all can play a role in shaping a better future for generations to come.
Before interning for GALEO, I knew that it was important to vote, and to occasionally speak out on the issues I personally cared about. However, it is important to note that civic engagement is more than just a checklist of items that serve individual self-interest. Civic engagement in my eyes is using your voice, your skills, and your platform to speak out on issues that affect your community, with the intent of informing and empowering those around you.
It is vital to have a firm understanding of what civic engagement entails. The New York Times defines civic engagement as, “working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.”
The mission GALEO works tirelessly to achieve, is to “[strive] for a better Georgia where the Latino community is engaged civically and its contributions and concerns are recognized.” As my time at GALEO ends, I can full-heartedly say that the mission of GALEO aligns precisely with the core values of what it means to be civically engaged. I have seen civic engagement take flight at GALEO.
In June, GALEO along with a strong coalition of community partners urged the city of Atlanta and people in our communities to come together to speak out against the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy through the Keep Families Together March. Our community took to the streets of Atlanta and spoke out against family separation. The march served as a unifying rally but also provided a platform for immigrants to share their own personal stories. From Congressman John Lewis to our own GALEO Policy Analyst, Harvey Soto, the Keeping Families Together March illustrated people from all walks of life coming together and demanding change from the bottom, up.
The power of the rally’s message is only one of countless examples of civic engagement. Through canvassers, GALEO is able to send out individuals out to various locations in the community to assist people in the process to register to vote. Through friendly conversation, trust, and the cultivation of relationship building, political awareness is created. Canvassers are an essential part of the GALEO mission. Through canvassing, not only is the Latinx electorate increased, but the idea of power through voting uplifts many who might not have known that their vote matters.
GALEO also hosts multiple events throughout the year. Our upcoming 2nd Annual Latino Leadership Summit is on August 18th. Through the Leadership Summit, individuals are able to dig deeper into what it means to be civically engaged through three distinct tracks; engage to impact, professional development, and policy. Through our Leadership Summit, individuals are given the tools and resources to become courageous and bold leaders in their community. The summit serves as a day of full empowerment. With individuals able to partake in innovative workshops and engage with distinguished speakers, GALEO’s Leadership Summit is an event that has an impact that is felt even after the summit is complete.
Through protest and rallies, to events and canvassing, the GALEO mission is about empowering Hispanic communities.
Often, it is easy to feel powerless in an increasingly polarized political climate. When we look at our governing bodies, we often don’t see our community being represented. Statistics would say that a half of Hispanic students in the state of Georgia would not go on to university level education. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Hispanic graduation rate in Georgia was “43 percent a decade ago” but has slightly risen over the years. At times, it seems that we don’t have seats at the most prominent institutions in our society.
But, when we don’t have a seat at the table, it is up to us to make room and demand our voices be heard and our presence as a community be known.
Through GALEO, Hispanics are given a seat at the table. As an intern, I never thought of myself as a professional until now. GALEO offers countless networking opportunities and a chance to work in a professional setting. GALEO hosts countless events that have the best interest of our community at heart. Above all, GALEO sees the potential in our communities.
Get involved with GALEO today. Have conversations with your friends about voting and issues that directly affect our families and friends. Sign up for the Latino Leadership Summit. GALEO is an organization that has taught me great lengths about my own potential, yet it doesn’t end with me. Through civic engagement, a wave of empowerment crashes through our communities and encourages us to lift up one another. Be the change you want to see in our communities. Don’t just talk about the change, be the change. Civic engagement starts with you.
The wave of empowerment is just beginning.
Ehrlich, Thomas. “Civic Responsibility and Higher Education.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 July 2003, archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/ref/college/collegespecial2/coll_aascu_defi.html?mcubz=3
Stirgus, Eric. “Students and Groups Work to Bridge Hispanic Grad Rate Gap.” Myajc, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4 Sept. 2016, www.myajc.com/news/local-education/students-and-groups-work-bridge-hispanic-grad-rate-gap/f6FbHbyRq0h3T9GJFCPmJN/.
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the author only. It is not to be assumed that the opinions are those of GALEO or the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund. For the official position on any issue for GALEO, please contact Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of GALEO at firstname.lastname@example.org.