Youth Civic Engagement Is Necessary to Drive Change

By President Shirley M. Collado, October 12, 2020
City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick and I sat down for a pre-pandemic conversation about the power of activating, hearing, and supporting young voices. Never has this been more important than it is right now.

Earlier this year — before the COVID-19 pandemic, before the primary elections, before the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the critical protests around systemic racism that continue to this day — I opened a conversation with Svante Myrick, mayor of the City of Ithaca, to discuss the importance of student civic engagement and how young people hold the power to transform our world.

Though the publication of this post has been delayed by the immediacy and the primacy of the necessary work I’ve been doing as Ithaca College grapples with our new reality, I want to share this conversation now. And it is more salient than ever.

We are in a moment in this nation where we watch the West Coast literally burn. Where the actions of our national political leaders actively undercut our democracy — and our shared humanity. Where we brace for a second wave of public health pandemic that has claimed the lives of 1 million people around the globe — 215,000 right here in the United States, giving us the inexcusable designation of being the world leader in COVID fatalities.

The state of affairs makes it tempting to feel discouraged. But this is a time when we must stand up — as individuals, as communities — to lean in and do the work, to collaborate around the big decisions, and find ways to create a more just future. Above all: we must help activate this nation’s youth. Our future depends upon it.