Last semester, I had the distinct pleasure of being part of the ENGAGE initiative, which offered area high school students an opportunity to hear from college students about the importance of being involved in their communities, especially the importance of voting.
ENGAGE brings a positive, non-partisan message to the youth, letting them know that the political process has a much larger impact on their lives than they may think. For example, while many are aware that their schools received supplemental revenue through millages, they had not connected a millage’s success with their ability to play sports or take part in theater productions. By making these high school students more aware of the role their voices play in the future of their respective communities, we hoped to pave the way for a wave of new political involvement.
The initiative, which is primarily funded by the Saginaw, Bay and Midland Community Foundations and administered through the Center for Public Policy and Service on the campus of SVSU, would not have been possible without the efforts of Nicole Paquette and Kristen Taber. Paquette, a senior at SVSU, and Taber, who recently graduated from SVSU, wrote to the community foundations seeking monies for the program. Director of the Center for Public Policy and political science professor John Kaczynski lent his guidance to the project, which is preparing for its second semester of presentations. Graduate student Kyle Jurek is also heavily involved in the presentations.
The three presentations that I assisted with saw a wide range of existing knowledge and ambitions. While the primary aim of ENGAGE is to encourage volunteerism and other forms of civic engagement, a secondary goal is to promote the benefits of staying local for post-secondary education and working to improve your hometown.
The idea of staying local is tough to consider when the majority of available jobs require moving either out of region or out of state. This brain drain is costing our state innovation, which is the only thing that can save our state’s economy and ensure future stability. It is quite the radical idea really, that instead of dreaming of leaving small town, USA, and moving to NYC or Chicago or Washington, D.C., that we should be dreaming of moving from our parents’ homes in quaint suburbia to the city proper. It is within the city limits of Detroit for Lansing or Flint or Saginaw that we can help resurrect a community that has so much to offer in terms of history and low start-up costs.
Why move to a depressed urban area? There is a low cost of living for starters. Instead of paying $1000+ per month to live in a dumpy Chicago apartment located far from the downtown, you can pay $500 per month (utilities included) to buy a 1,000+ square-foot home in a nice part of the city that’s next to some of the nicer schools in the district. This isn’t just for the hipsters either. The so-called “creative class” is more than just ironic artsy types. Those wishing to strike out on their own, in pursuit of a modified American dream where self-happiness and the greater good are one and the same fits this mold.
Still not convinced? Want to go somewhere were you can go to five-star restaurants and popular nightclubs in the same area? Why not open up such a place yourself? What could be better than actually owning the hottest place in town? Are we so lazy and content as to no longer work to accomplish something for the greater good?
I see this as an opportunity to forge a legacy of our own, and instead of relying on others to do things for us, to do things right and bypass the middleman.