Student Union Launches Revamped Civic Engagement Course

The Student Union (SU) External Affairs Department unveiled a new online Civic Engagement course to the student body in early November.

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The External Affairs department of the Student Union (SU) launched their new online Civic Engagement course in early November. The course features bi-weekly newsletters that are sent to members via e-mail and posted on the SU website. It aims to educate the Stuyvesant community about youth activism, city and state government and politics, and opportunities to get involved as students and young citizens.

The Civic Engagement course began in the spring of 2018 with the goal of informing students about local government and community functions and providing them with opportunities to become more engaged in city and state politics and their local communities. The course is designed to strengthen the connection between student activism in school and youth activism in government. “Stuyvesant has always been a vocal community,” junior andSU Vice President Vishwaa Sofat said. “The Civic Engagement course allows us to learn about facets [of grassroots activism] that we’re not really aware of.”

This year, the External Affairs Department has expanded the course, increasing student outreach and adding information about student opportunities. “[Last year] we focused on all of New York state government and New York City government in one e-mail, which was very chaotic,” sophomoreand SU Delegate of External Affairs Julian Giordanosaid. “This year [...] we’re starting off the course with a bunch of e-mails […] that are focusing on the basics.” The Civic Engagement course will also focus on specific areas of state and local government this year, such as the structure and function of state assemblies, which was the topic of the first newsletter this fall.

Freshman and SU Delegate of External Affairs Neve Diaz-Carr reflected on student feedback for the course’s first newsletter. "[Students] said it was really interesting, [...] but they want to delve more into what they can do,” Diaz-Carr said.

Going forward, topics covered in the Civic Engagement course will be tailored to student interests, which the External Affairs department keeps track of through student feedback surveys sent with every e-mail. “[Students] want to learn about law enforcement and how that works in their community and how they can get involved,” Giordano said, providing an example of a potential course topic that the External Affairs department received from a student.

The External Affairs department also plans to host guest speaker meetings, which will ideally be open to the general student body at Stuyvesant. “[We’re] planning to […] reach out to politicians who would be willing to come and speak to us from both sides,” Sofat said, explaining the SU’s goals in developing this potential feature of the Civic Engagement course. These speaker meetings would open a forum for discussions between students and their political representatives on important issues at the city and state level.

Students who sign up for the Civic Engagement course on the SU website at any point in the year will start receiving the course newsletter e-mails every two weeks. The newsletter starts with a lesson about the general topic and its specific applications in the New York state or city government and students’ lives. A subsequent section provides information about student opportunities in political and community volunteering. For students who sign up later in the year, previous e-mails can be accessed through the new course page on the SU website.

In order to increase student participation in the Civic Engagement course, the SU has sent out multiple e-mails to students promoting the course, and Parent Coordinator Dina Ingramhas informed parents about the course through her Weekly Update newsletter. In addition, the SU is reaching out to social studies teachers, and one even used a lesson from the course for their class.

Giordano encourages all students who are interested in becoming more active in their community to sign up for the course, even if they are outside of the Stuyvesant community. “If a student wants to be on the newsletter, they can be on the newsletter,” Giordano said. “[If] other students from other schools or siblings of Stuyvesant students can take information away from the Civic Engagement course then I have no problem with that. I think it only furthers the message we’re trying to spread.”

Ultimately, the SU hopes that students will take advantage of the Civic Engagement course, as it aids them both as high school students and as young citizens in the modern political climate. “People have all these ideas, things that they want to learn about—and if they learn about them, it can help them become more involved in their communities, so we want to help them with that,” Giordano said.