Opinion: Be an Active Citizen in Your Community

Salsa in the Square hosted by Project Gettysburg-Léon, the Gettysburg Borough Council, the Borough police, and other community organizations (Photo Samantha Hann/The Gettysburgian)

Salsa in the Square hosted by Project Gettysburg-Léon, the Gettysburg Borough Council, the Borough police, and other community organizations (Photo Samantha Hann/The Gettysburgian)

By Morgan Hubbard, Columnist and Joshua Wagner, Opinions Editor

You’re probably an officer in multiple organizations across campus and jump from meeting to meeting. You don’t sleep, you skip meals, and haven’t watched Netflix in months.

You should get more involved, and here’s why.

Many students at Gettysburg College have highly structured lifestyles which orbit around meetings and clubs. That’s great, but despite all of these activities, many students do not engage in the greater Gettysburg community.

Here is a quick litmus test to determine whether you are an engaged community member: name ten people who live in Adams county that do not attend or work at Gettysburg College.

Gettysburg College claims that it develops students’ global perspective and prepares them to be global citizens. What about just being citizens? It’s hard to be a citizen of the world when you aren’t even a contributing member of your own community.

This is not just a problem at Gettysburg College. Community engagement is declining across the United States. This trend is notable in service organizations.

Service organizations were once the backbone of many communities. Three such organizations are Rotary International, Lions Clubs International, and Kiwanis International. Each of which are over 100 years old and have rich histories of building communities and serving their local areas. Driving into Gettysburg, you will notice signs for all three.

However, these clubs are aging. Membership is literally dying off, and young people are not stepping in. For this reason, many local service clubs across Pennsylvania and the United States are closing.

But why? Are young people today too busy? The problem may require some thorough research to flush out, but the solution is relatively simple: get to know your neighborhood.

Attend a Project Gettysburg Leon (PGL) meeting. PGL is a grassroots movement with the mission to “empower people, communities and organizations to advance sustainable development through capacity- building funds, education and cultural exchange programs.” By creating a bond between Leon, Nicaragua, PGL also builds a greater sense of community in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Spend some time with the older community of Gettysburg by attending weekly dinners held by the Adams County Office for Aging. What better way to spend your Friday dinner hour than with people who have a rich understanding of this town?

Okay, so what if you have too much class work to make time for this? Easy. Gettysburg offers a wonderful academic partnership with the Center for Public Service called Community Based Learning. Each year, there are several courses that include an aspect of community development as a part of the course work. What a liberal arts idea!

Being a part of our community doesn’t have to take on the traditional idea of “charity work.” In fact, the best community development comes from coalition building; understanding the needs of a community and working together to address them. The first step in being a part of those movements is to get to know your surroundings.

Spend some time in town. Talk to people you don’t know. Do some research about Adams County. Think critically about how you can be a resource to the community in your brief time here. Most of us will only live in Gettysburg for four years, but that is plenty of time to make a positive impact and shift the campus culture to one that promotes a reciprocal relationship with the community beyond our campus.
If you see a need in the community, do something about it! Margaret Mead, a prominent cultural anthropologist once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Are you a member of a small group ready to change the world? More importantly, do you even consider yourself a member of your community?

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Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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