New (School) Year’s Resolutions: Increasing Our Civic Participation

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READING TIME: 3 min.

The past few weeks, we have been systematically sending our babies back to school. This year more than most, I feel like August is the new January. August serves as an unofficial bridge that connects beginning of the year to the end. Just like January, August presents us with a clear opportunity for a fresh start. And so, our family decided August is a perfect time to set some New (School) Year’s Resolutions. This school year, I am setting the goal of increasing our civic participation as a family. We are going to get back to being involved in our community.

What is Civic Participation?

girl with megaphone, Growing Civic ParticipationSo, just what is civic participation? Dating to Roman times, civic participation involves people within a community working together in both political and non-political ways to influence the fabric of our society. Our democracy can be defined by three words, “We the People,” that punctuate how important our collective participation is.

There are three ways we can participate in our society: (1) voting (2) volunteering and (3) activism.

Democracy in America is at a cross-roads; by all official measures, our democracy is backsliding. And while I am the first to advocate for everyone actively voting in ALL elections, I also feel strongly that one vote on one day isn’t enough. It’s what you do the remaining 364 days of the year that truly matters.

For the past two years, circumstances of the pandemic have naturally forced us to withdraw from our community. And while this time last year, we found ourselves adding back certain pieces of our previous lives (cheers to you, after-school sports), I finally feel free to get back into all the routines and activities that make us feel like we belong. Which is why in this season of life, I am helping my family focus on volunteering and activism.

shirt that says volunteer, Increasing Civic Participation thru Volunteering

Volunteering

I love to volunteer. I began volunteering in elementary school, was philanthropy chair for my sorority, and even worked for a 501(c)3 as an adult. Volunteering is a part of me. And yet, I also know volunteering intimidates many. But I encourage you to find something you care about, and take the plunge. You will likely be surprised how good it feels to give back to your community. The pandemic altered how much I volunteered (or didn’t). But with my big kids now seven and five, I am looking forward to introducing them to the experience of volunteering. And let’s be honest…as moms, we’re always more likely to do something if it is for our kids.

This fall, I’m signing us up to volunteer with Feed my Starving Children. The organization offers things that I need in this stage of life:(1) kid friendliness (2) minimal time commitment and (3) accepts kids as young as five. Check, check, and check! Packing food boxes not your thing? The metroplex is full of volunteer needs. Dallas Moms has several articles on opportunities across the metroplex:

Volunteering with the Whole Family
‘Tis the Season to Volunteer with Your Kids
Love Your Neighbor: Best Places to Volunteer with Kids in Dallas

Activism

Volunteering and serving others is not only rewarding, it also opens your eyes to the problems within our community. And coming together to solve those problems is what drives community activism. Activism isn’t always protests or grandiose acts to draw attention to individual concerns. It is far, far more. It’s participating in the PTA, it’s fraternal organizations or Junior League, its organizing creek clean-up days in your neighborhood. It is activities that unite us with our fellow citizens—around common causes, common likes, or common desires. And through civic engagement we grow our voice and create lasting change.

So, this fall, as you evaluate how you want to end the year, I encourage you to add in some activities that involve your community.

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As a professional policy wonk, Katy helps companies navigate the impact of domestic and international politics on business affairs. As a mother, she passionately teaches her kids to understand and participate in the world around them. Katy is married to her highschool sweetheart. Together, they have two boys and a girl – or as they refer to them - the Heir, the Spare, and the Queen in-between. Their dog, who believes king sized beds are too small, their aquatic turtle named Chelsea, and their flock of backyard chickens, round out the Brank Family Circus, who reside in Richardson, Texas. Her Instagram page and personal blog, Sandbox Politics , document her adventures in raising the next generation of global citizens.

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