For many students, college is an opportunity to explore the dynamics of organizing and working for a cause that makes a meaningful contribution to their community.
“Students are having serious discussions about what they want out of life," says Grinnell College president Raynard Kington. “They may very well die with fewer toys and richer lives, and that would be O.K."
Whether you define your community as your neighborhood, your town, your city, the USA, or the world at large, there are many possibilities for sharing your energy and enthusiasm with an activist group.
You may already be familiar with some of the national and international social justice organizations. These include Habitat for Humanity, which aims is to give the working poor a leg up by providing decent housing, and Amnesty International, whose mission is to expose human rights abuses and leverage public pressure to correct them. Supporting local homeless shelters or working through organizations like the Salvation Army or Catholic
Charities can allow you to address issues of poverty and hunger in your own backyard.
There are more groups in the social justice arena geared toward students:
Hip Hop Congress includes high school and college members who use hip -hop both to provide a creative outlet, and rally others to take social and civic action.
CampusPride works to ensure colleges maintain an environment that is safe for LGBTQ students.
United Students against Sweatshops fights for workers’ rights and humane working conditions around the world.
Not quite ready to take to the high seas with Greenpeace and protect the whales? You may be interested to know that the scope of this international organization encompasses a full spectrum of environmental issues, from global warming to nuclear proliferation.
Environmental groups organized by and for college students include:
Sierra Student Coalition is an affiliate of the Sierra Club and, like its parent, seeks to educate the public and lobby for preserving wildlands. The group also provides organizational training and conducts nature outings.
Campus Climate Challenge is a group of high school and college students who work for 100% Clean Energy policies at their schools.
Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) is a network of progressive youth organizations that educates and acts to correct environmental injustices.
You don’t need to join a group affiliated with a national political party to have your say in the political process. These groups champion policies that are especially relevant to U.S. college students:
The Project on Student Debt or Student Debt Alert are groups who raise public awareness of the growing crisis in education debt, including family and economic issues that result.
The Responsible Endowment Coalition advocates for investment of college and university endowments in socially and environmentally responsible ways.
Mobilize.org is an all-partisan network dedicated to educating, empowering, and energizing young people to increase civic engagement and political participation.
You can go to SpeakOutNow.org for links to additional activist organizations. Go to CampusActivism.org to access tools like events calendars, organizing guides, issue white papers, and related databases for student activists.
Campus Activism - Tools for Activists. (n.d.). Retrieved September 24, 2014, from campusactivism.org
Links to Youth and Student Organizations. (n.d.). Retrieved September 24, 2014, from speakoutnow.org
Smith, M. (2013, January 31). Colleges embrace social justice curriculum @insidehighered. Retrieved September 24, 2014, from insidehighered.com