Even during a worldwide shutdown, there are still opportunities for people of all ages to remain socially active. That is even more important for college-aged students, who historically are less active on important issues even though they affect their everyday lives, like voting in local, state and national elections.
Millersville University’s (MU) Walker Fellows, a civic and community leaders professional development program, affords students an opportunity to develop and master skills that are essential for being civically engaged and active in the communities where they live, work and study.
The group, which consists of members of different ages, races, genders and political ideologies, is working to spread important information to Millersville students and the Lancaster community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our main focus right now is just trying to get people to fill out the census,” said Brynn Raub, a junior in the School of Education. “We had a lot more planned to promote this year but it’s a little tough right now because we can’t do much face-to-face.”
The census is important for multiple reasons, listed on the official Census website. Communities can work out better public improvement strategies with more accurate information. For example, non-profit organizations use census numbers to estimate the number of potential volunteers in communities across the nation. Census numbers are also used to help distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in federal and state funding.
Census information will continue to be taken through August.
“A lot of times we find that resources aren’t fairly distributed, especially in underserved communities, because people either choose not to fill out the census or they’re scared,” Raub said.
“The group least responsive to the census other than the immigrant population is young adults,” added Lori Leaman, Programs and event coordinator for civic and community engagement. “So right now, you’ll find that a lot of the Walker Fellows are focusing their efforts on that.”
The Walker Fellows continue to meet and remain in contact virtually, Leaman said. Much of the group’s efforts focus on the census, awareness about mail-in voting advocacy and changes in the state election.
Other members are working diligently on their own to help meet the needs of the community. Some are sewing masks for frontline workers and people of the community, while others are using the down time to educate about topics they’re passionate about.
Kaiya Weaver, a rising senior and Walker Fellow, is using her personal social media platforms to spread positivity. “I think everyone is stressed out and worried because of COVID-19 and the economy and the fact that we’re stuck at home,” she said. “I think it’s really important to remember that we’re all going through this for the first time and it’s important to support the people in your community. I’ve been posting messages of positivity on my Instagram to just let people know that I’m here if they need someone to talk to.”