So far, interning for NYRA has been an excellent opportunity. As an incoming freshman at American University and a student of a program where along with being a full time student I acquire an internship, I was supposed to find an organization that pertained to my interests. At the time, political activism was not exactly something I had envisioned myself doing, especially due to the fact that being politically aware was something I was not. In fact, I would probably say politics was something I was more afraid of then excited about. However, after attending an internship bazaar and encountering NYRA, I realized the truth behind many of the hypocrisies and injustices our society imposes upon youth, and decided I would be enthusiastic and dedicated in supporting NYRA’s causes.
So far, my main job here has been to encourage and aid intents in forming local chapters across the country. Although at first I felt rather intimidated due to my inexperience in this area, I slowly have become quite comfortable with my position. I generally begin with emailing the members who have expressed interest, but have not been contacted in a long time. If they respond and are still interested, I provide them with all the details and information they should need to start an organization at their local school/university. Generally, this means sending them the chapter formation handbook along with advice to investigate and become familiar with their school’s recognition process. Although it isn’t required, being recognized is extremely advantageous for it allows use of school grounds, facilities, and even possible funding. I also of course usually recommend that they spread word across campus to friends in order to alert their community of their intentions in order to recruit as many other students as possible. Because I don’t want to discourage them with what seems like an overload of work and commitment, I attempt to research their specific school’s student organization policies. Generally about a week or so later, I then check up on them via phone, Facebook, or through email to see how their progress is coming along and send them any further information I may have.
Another great aspect of this internship so far is my ability to make an outreach on campus’s and at important events throughout the area. For example, on September 15, I helped set up a table and recruit members at the peace rally held directly behind the white house. Although this was my first hands-on experience and of course I felt a little intimidated, by the end of the day we accumulated nearly 130 emails and names of people interested in our organization. Along with this great accomplishment, I also began feeling well versed and far more comfortable on these issues, and not to mention our organization’s arguments and claims.
Several weeks later, yet another opportunity to spread awareness of youth rights came at University of Maryland’s two day club fair at College Park. With hopes of starting a chapter here, we knew that this was even a better chance to get people active due to the sheer size of the school, which has a student body of nearly 25,000. Like myself, I knew these were college kids with similar interests and struggles, and that they would certainly be outraged and anxious to combat the “ageism”, as we like to call it, that exists in our society. With our table set up and our paraphernalia out including articles, fliers, pins, and clipboard, we were ready to recruit. After two days at the fair, and what seemed as thousands of rhetorical discussions, we recruited nearly 300 people, including 9 who explicitly stated interest in starting a chapter.
Just last week, however, was an even more fascinating opportunity. I was sent to represent NYRA at the Democracy 2.0 conference hosted by Mobilize. Not only was this extremely daunting due to the fact that I would have to represent the entire organization by myself, but I soon found out that this summit was to be held at the Homeland Security office building. As I arrived early in the morning, I had no idea what the following day would entail, especially due to the fact that there were fully armed guards with automatic rifles posted near the entrance to the building. However, after finding the meeting and settling in, it was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated. In fact, in a very lax format, we took survey questions discussing problems and solutions our generation has as the youth in society, discussed them in small groups, and then voted on which would be added to our declaration. Similar to NYRA, most of the other organizations represented at the summit were various youth advocacy groups, and it was very interesting meeting people from all across the country united under one cause; advancement of youth in society.
Overall, I hope that my work here at NYRA not only brings aid to the organization, but helps make a difference and hopefully helps gain more respect for our voice in society as a whole. So far, two intents have proclaimed starting a chapter, and one even claims he is in the process of setting up his first meeting. I think this is a great start, and I hope it is the first of many, many more to come.