During Princeton University’s fall break, a cohort of undergraduates met with leaders in private and public sectors to cultivate their capacity for citizenship, community engagement, and leadership on campus and in their home communities to deepen their understanding of service and success in a global society.
In its second year, the Next Generation Citizenship program is a leadership initiative sponsored by ODUS and Whig-Clio. Reflecting the national conversation surrounding the mid-term elections, this year’s program consisted of two on-campus workshops: one on civil discourse, community engagement, and citizenship, and the next a design-thinking workshop exploring strategies to improve citizenship engagement in collaboration with the Keller Center. The program also included a three-day trip to Washington, D.C., where NextGen Fellows met with leaders working on the future of citizenship and community engagement. They were hosted by DC area alumni Joe Kochan ’02 and Lauren Mauro ’02 for a welcome reception for the Next Generation Citizenship fellows and area alumni.
Prospective Fellows were required to complete an application based on interests in citizenship, community engagement, and leadership. Eight students were selected from a competitive pool of applicants.
After the trip, the Fellows were encouraged to reflect about what they learned and think about ways in which they can inspire others to civically engage with, and work to improve their communities.
Sparked by visits to think tanks and conversations with Princeton alumni and other Fellows from his cohort, Kelton Chastulik ’21 launched a book drive in his hometown of Chambersburg, PA. “I was inspired by other Princetonians and their goals to bring about great change in their own ways. I think the most powerful part of the Next-Gen Citizenship program was the ability and space for me to consider the roles I can have in my own community back in Chambersburg, PA. I also believe the program empowered me to have my own voice and to push the envelope on this project.” With an initial goal of raising 200 books for children in the community, Kelton far surpassed this target, collecting over 4500 books while mentoring high school volunteers in his community.
Lena Hu ’20, president emerita of Whig-Clio, organized a civic engagement career panel on campus featuring speakers with whom the group met on the Washington D.C. “Having been personally inspired by the stories of all the people we met, I decided to use Whig-Clio’s platform to make them accessible to students on campus. Working in collaboration with the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, we hosted representatives from the Obama Foundation, Senator Cory Booker’s office, and the Witherspoon Institute to discuss fulfilling careers after Princeton. The event was open to all students and led to very productive discussion on the importance of choosing a career based on personal values and passions.”
Through intentionally programmed on-campus workshops and the coinciding fall break trip to the nation’s capital, the NextGen program encouraged Fellows to think about creative and innovative ways to lead civic engagement efforts within their communities while paying particular attending to inclusivity and civil discourse. “The trip included visits to organizations along the political spectrum, and the students who participated also held a range of political views,” says Lena. “This trip taught valuable lessons in discourse across difference and provides a wonderful opportunity to meet new people.”