In honor of Civic Engagement Week, the Civic and Community Engagement Center hosted a panel discussion for student leaders who have attended various civic engagement conferences around the country. The panel discussion gave these student leaders an opportunity to share their experience with the students at Ramapo.
The panel was moderated by Kerry Duda, a junior and student coordinator at the Civic and Community Engagement Center. The panel featured several student leaders including Jonathan Lopes, Danielle Corcione, Elida Alfaro and Brianne Kennedy, who attended the Active Citizens Conference in Williamsburg, Va., as well as Christina Coviello, who attended the Impact Conference in Albuquerque, N.M. The student leaders were joined by Kat McGee, assistant director of the Center for Student Involvement and coordinator of the Women’s Center, who attended the Civil Liberties and Public Policy conference in Amherst, Mass.
Coviello explained that the main benefit of attending a conference is that attendants are “fully immersed in the topic” and have the opportunity to meet people from different places that share the same interests and work for the same cause.
Ramapo College has a tradition of sending student leaders and staff members to conferences like the ones discussed by the panelists. Typically, the College will cover the cost for travel and attendance in order to encourage students to participate and be actively engaged.
“These students really represent the College and the community,” said Lopes.
The presenters attended workshops and discussions on various topics, such as the rights of prison inmates, educating young children about social justice and voter registration in public colleges.
Lopes explained that the main mission of the conference he attended, the Active Citizens Conference, was “educating, uniting and inspiring active citizens.”
The student leaders discussed how they can apply the knowledge they have gained from the conference to improve the student life at Ramapo.
Coviello already initiated Campus Kitchens Club at Ramapo College after attending the Active Citizens Conference last year. Alfaro, who attended the conference this year, shared that she was also inspired by the conference and will assist with the future development of the Campus Kitchens Club.
“It didn’t necessarily force me to bring anything back to campus,” said Alfaro, “but it did help me initiate the conversation again and helped us get a rep who I think is going to really help lead us to a great success on campus.”
Kennedy was inspired by the alternative break session she attended at the Active Citizens Conference and intends to advocate for alternative winter and summer breaks at Ramapo.
McGee will advocate for gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, where gender nonconforming students and employees can safely enter. She explained that most Ramapo bathrooms would remain gender-segregated, but there would also be an alternative option.