At the beginning of my freshman year, I signed up to volunteer with Illinois Public Interest Research Group, a non-partisan organization that works with groups of people to help advance certain political issues.
I quickly realized that the work they were doing on campus to help students register to vote was really important to me, and that I wanted to be more involved. I began phone-banking with a couple other students and our organizer multiple times a week, and standing around the Quad with a clipboard asking strangers if they were registered.
We also started planning larger events to bring more volunteers in and get more people registered, and decided to create a registered student organization so we could rent supplies and space on campus for our events.
It was a great thing for me to experience in my first semester at college. I was able to connect with other students who cared about politics just as much as me, even if we didn’t have the exact same viewpoints. We all understood how important participation was, both civically through voting and on campus.
Creating the RSO taught me how to interact with campus administration and adults in a new, independent way that I hadn’t experienced before. Becoming the vice president of the Illinois PIRG RSO gave me the opportunity to have a leadership role early on in my college career, which gave me confidence to seek out similar roles in the years since. It gave me an amazing opportunity to work on something that I was really passionate about, and spread that passion to a lot of others.
To this day I am in contact with a few of the people that I worked with two years ago, and I know my time working with PIRG and creating an RSO helped to set me on a great trajectory of being involved and challenging myself at U of I.