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What does Civic Engagement mean to you?


(Dean’s note:  The School of Education is pursuing the theme “Social Justice through Family and Civic Engagement” during this academic year.  This blog will explore many aspects of that theme.  Contributions are welcome, if you would like to share your thoughts)

Civic Engagement: What does this mean to you?

Many Schools of Education place an emphasis on civic engagement and social justice in their overarching missions and course objectives. But what does this really mean to you on a personal level? Frankly, one cannot engage in social justice if not civically engaged. So let’s start there.

Civic engagement is defined as “contributing to public life and participating in solving public problems” (Center for Democracy and Citizenship), as well as “working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and…promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes” (New York Times).  While there are many formal definitions of civic engagement, these being but two, ask yourself: what does this mean to me and how can I participate in civic engagement? How can I improve the quality of life of someone in my community?

Most likely, how you practice civic engagement is defined by your current life situation. Are you a struggling student balancing many activities, a working professional with a stable routine, a mid-career professional, or a retired citizen? Whatever your circumstances, I urge you to practice civic engagement in whatever large or small way you can—from assisting in the recovery efforts in Haiti, to volunteering at a local food bank or shelter, to simply carrying grocery bags for an elderly or physically weak individual in your community. Sometimes, just the courtesy of extending a smile can change someone’s day. These activities, indeed, are civic engagement and puts us on the path toward social justice and a socially progressive society. Civic engagement isn’t hard and we all have 5 minutes a day to engage with people in our communities. We all make a difference when we care for each other!

Sara Pula, Ph.D., NCC, LCPC, ACS

Director of Clinical Training

Trinity Washington University

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