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How to Stay Connected to a Greater Cause

Simple ways college leaders can stay informed, active, and engaged in their community during the summer. 

By Alexzandria Cormier-Hill

June 10, 2020

Teach For America Map of the United States

Between the coronavirus pandemic  and the protest following George Floyd's death, people just like you are looking for creative and thoughtful ways to step-up and give back. If you are a college student looking to strengthen communities in need as well as your leadership skills, here are a few ways to stay informed and make an impact in your community. 

Stay Informed

Now more than ever, virtual spaces are becoming the go-to option for staying informed about what’s going on in the world, engaged with your community, and inspired by the amazing things everyday people are achieving to make this world a better place.

Whether it’s ebooks, podcasts, webinars, digital conferences, or online think-tanks, virtual platforms allow you to learn how others are leaving their mark in the world and how you can do the same.

Podcasts are a great way to immerse yourself in stories that help you develop empathy, understanding, and connection. Challenge your thinking by listening to podcasts that address causes you care about from a different perspective. Some of our favorites are:

·       Racial Inequity: Pod Save the People, Code Switch, All My Relations, Latinos Who Lunch, Self-Evident, See Something, Say Something, Throughlines, School Colors

·       Education: TED Talk Education, The Cult of Pedagogy, Inequalities in Education, NPR Education, Research Minutes, Educate

·       Gender Identity: Queery, Come Out Come Out, Nancy, Tagg Nation, Making Gay History, One From the Vaults

·       Youth Leaders: We Dream, Student Podcast Challenge

Digital events like Teach For America’s PopClass allow collegiate leaders across the nation to connect with their peers and renowned thought leaders. Together, they’re able to partake in candid conversations that explain the various factors that impact underserved students and the advocates who work tirelessly to help even the playing field.

Racial inequity, societal systems that place marginalized communities at a disadvantage, bullying and allyship, innovation in education, and the importance of protecting and practicing good mental health are just some of the topics explored in this online series.

If you’re looking for ways to challenge the status quo, deepen your knowledge about how addressing educational disparities, and develop your leadership and critical thinking skills,

Consider participating in an online think-tank. Think-tanks like TFA’s Spark Lab take a deeper dive into crucial issues that impact student learning inside and outside the classroom. After receiving mentorship and training from a top innovation leader, collegiate changemakers work together to use the information and come up with creative, effective, and practical solutions to approach the issues discussed. For those who are interested, they’re even able to review and vote on their favorite solution proposal!

Start Where You Are 

If you’re thinking about getting more involved, the easiest way is to start where you are. Think of the organizations that you’ve joined in college or followed in the past. Do any of them have local or regional chapters? If so, reach out to the larger branches of your organization to see if and where they need assistance.

For example, say you’re involved in a political science club on campus. If your organization has a local or regional office, ask if they’re taking part in any what initiatives. Maybe they’re doing needing creative ways to get the people to register to vote. Or say you're in a social justice club and the local chapter needs help organizing and publicizing an upcoming town hall meeting to address the issues of the community. You can expound the work you already do at school for your local chapters. This not only allows you to continue to serve in a cause you're passionate about, but you also have the great opportunity to network with other professionals and develop your skills in a relevant, tangible, and helpful way. 

You can also research organizations that are offering different ways to help. Your local nonprofits, schools, worship centers, and government are great places to start. You may also want to see what philanthropic initiatives larger national organizations have in place and if there are opportunities to engage or be involved with the cause they champion. More likely than not, they are overwhelmed with needs from the community and could use an extra capacity to better serve their community. 

Check their website, sign up for their newsletter and social media platforms for status updates, announcements, volunteer pictures, and requests for help. Twitter and Facebook are some of the best places to find the most up-to-date announcements on what the organization is doing and where they could use support. Call the office and ask to speak with the department over volunteer opportunities. This could give you a more direct and immediate idea of where you could be of service. 

Start With What You Know

Once you identify what organizations need help and which opportunities interest you the most, assess how they might align with your skills, talents, and competencies. Consider how you want to optimize your soft and hard skills to become a better leader during this time.

Then, figure out the best way to demonstrate your skills. Reach out to nonprofits, schools, worship centers, government, and companies you’ve researched and see where they need assistance. During this time of isolation, organizations are turning to digital assistance to expand their operations to help people in need. Whether it’s calling people, coordinating schedules, helping update important systems, organizing events, curating resources, there are plenty of things you can do to keep operations going smooth.

If you’d rather help in person, make sure you have a full understanding of your role as well as the logistics and safety precautions in place to best serve the community. During this pandemic, it’s imperative that you’re clear on what the organization has in place to keep you and the community safe. Engage with other volunteers and community members to surface where needs exist and what has been done to do to contribute to filling the gap.

All these steps can help gain a profound understanding of where inequities exist and how to use your leadership skills to contribute to a greater cause in a community that needs support.