In the United States, we have a clear problem with how uninvolved our nation’s youth is in politics and civic activities. At Gustavus we may have a higher rate of civic engagement than other areas of the United States, but we can always do better.
There are great opportunities out there for someone that wants to volunteer or get more involved. One of the best organizations to volunteer for is a program called Kids Against Hunger. The organization seeks to eliminate hunger in both the United States and around the world. Oftentimes, one can just volunteer for a couple of hours at a time and help package specially prepared packages of food that is meant to be both nutritious and digestible for people that are starving.
Kids Against Hunger actually has a packaging center right here in Mankato, and it could be very convenient for Gustavus students and even various student organizations could volunteer some of their time. The founder of the charity, Richard Proudfit, is a Minnesota native and is even based out of New Hope, MN.
Political involvement is also at a low point in American history, especially in the 2014 midterms when only 36.3 percent of the electorate turned out to vote, an abysmally low turnout and, in fact, it was the lowest turnout for a general election since the year 1942, which had such a low turnout because a sizeable portion of the electorate was fighting in World War II.
In this age of unprecidented freedoms, there is no excuse for such a low turnout percentage. Some of these states even mail ballots to all eligible voters, and yet no state managed to break 60 percent turnout. Although the election just finished, there is never really a time in American politics where each party is not looking towards the next election.
If someone wants to get involved with a political party or a candidate, all you need to do is contact them; no political organization will ever turn away anyone that truly wants to be involved. For example, both the Grand Old Party (GOP) and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) had victory offices in Mankato that eagerly sought volunteers throughout the last election cycle, and will doubtlessly continue to do so for 2016.
If you want to stay even more local, both the College Democrats and Republicans are very active associations that welcome any political enthusiast. Even if you have never taken interest in politics, it is never too late to get and learn about the issues and decide which political party you identify with.
There are also plenty of organizations here at Gustavus that the student body should take advantage of, like the different cultures and languages such as the Russian and German clubs.
One of the most interesting and dynamic clubs at Gustavus is the Investment Club, which received a generous donation of $100,000, allowing the club to invest real money in the stock exchange, and educates its members on how to invest wisely which is a valuable skill for everyone.
Student Senate is also a very interesting and important organization at Gustavus as they receive a cut of all student activity fees and are charged with appropriating the funds to the various student organizations and can influence the life of a student at many different points throughout their academic career.
Student Senate also acts as the voice of the student body and is the most effective way of letting the administration know of any concerns you and your peers might be having. Students are always welcome at meetings of the Senate and there is even a section of the meeting dedicated to community comment.
In the end it really doesn’t matter what one is involved in just get out there and participate in groups that interest you.