The Importance of Civic Engagement
During the course of the 2016 election, working alongside the 49er democracy team proved to be an excellent learning experience. As a second year biology student, I've always learned the importance of necessary interactions that help to maintain a stable community. In that sense, being informed and engaged are empowering, civic responsibilities that allow for proper functioning of our democracy. Throughout this election phase, I've learned that we as citizens, are more alike than we are different; we just tend to focus in on these differences. Additionally, I found it is important to make our voices heard, so together we can ensure that we all have an equal opportunity at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Staying informed and engaged are essential to this process, because it enables us to make sound, politically correct decisions. The 49er Democracy Experience was just the involvement I needed in order to grasp a better understanding of our republic and the issues surrounding it.
There were many ways to get involved with the 49er Democracy Experience organization. The UNC Charlotte Democracy Experience was comprised of classroom presentations, issue forums, signature events, debate watch parties, and voter registration tabling. All were made available to students, staff, and faculty. These events and opportunities gave me a chance to get educated and moreover, mobilize.
For this voting/election year, UNC Charlotte also made available an early voting site. This was very helpful because it eliminated issues that many college students may have, such as transportation to the polling sites or lack of time. Our team tabled four days a week to maximize the number of people registered to vote and to deliver relevant information as the critical dates approached.
While working with this organization, I had the chance to hear various opinions/views from many different types of people. The 49er Democracy experience is a bipartisan group, so all of the discussions were respectful and understanding. With this organization, you didn't have to be apprehensive about expressing your views, because everyone would consider them with an open mind.
Participating in this organization also gave me the opportunity to help other people to be active in the voting process. With the classroom presentations and tabling, we were able to tell people the easiest ways to register and what they needed to do to prior to the election. We also discussed why it was important to vote and different ways to stay involved on campus. For the most part, we were very successful and seemed to make everyone happy.
The debate watch parties and signature events were both great ways to interact with students of various backgrounds. I felt that I learned so much from people with opposing views/beliefs. This organization brought me to a higher level of maturity because I was able to agree to disagree and still be polite. I think it's very important for college students to be able to express their views on difficult topics and still be respectful. For me, this was the best part of my experience. I know that in the future, if I ever wanted to have an open discussion on my concerns for our state or nation, this is where I would go!