As my time at DePauw comes to a close and I look back upon my time here, I think about how much I have grown as a person. I have discovered and grappled with aspects of myself and my identity that I would have never considered before college. Now, as a more aware individual, I look to the future and think of what I want to do with my life to bring these understandings to the forefront. One of the biggest helps in bringing me to my current position has been working at the Compton Center.
The Compton Center for Peace and Justice is a space where people can come together to plan events and discussions to bring together and empower the community for social change. This work is all about social activism, which we can see through Amherst College’s definition of the phrase, “Social activism is an intentional action with the goal of bringing about social change. If you feel strongly about a cause and are working towards a change, you could be considered an activist. An activist is anyone who is fighting for change in society.” I feel as though I am an activist, though I too struggle at times to feel as though I am really doing all that I should to help bring change to the world and often realize that I have much to learn in terms of effective ways to bring about change.
What is important though is that I am trying. I believe that inside of everyone there is an activist, a person who sees injustice or wrongdoing in the world and longs to do something about it. For me, joining the Compton Center was my way of saying, “I’m fed up of sitting idly by as oppression and discrimination exists. It is time to stop being passive and start acting.” As a Compton Intern I have been able to publicly address issues that matter to me, like cultural misunderstandings and conflict, classism, and the minimum wage. One of my favorite moments as an intern was after my minimum wage event, when a friend of mine approached me and thanked me for having the event, sharing my experiences, and bringing to light the issues of classism because she was in a position that had never been exposed to such points of view and that she was interested in learning more. Realizing that I effectively influenced even just one person’s understanding of the struggles of lower class people made me feel proud and empowered.
As I look ahead to my future and begin thinking about what career I would like to pursue, I realize that my time in the Compton Center has influenced what kind of company I would like to work for and what kind of work I would like to do. No longer is it an option for me to take any old job. Now I know that the type of company I work for matters a great deal to me. Is the company’s aim humanitarian and worthwhile? Is their productivity based on green practices, working towards a sustainable future? Are their standards ethical, and do they respect human dignity and equality? Do they promote a healthy work/life balance, encourage their employees to act morally, and allow for engagement and criticism?
Now that I have experienced social activist work, I cannot imagine my life without it. I would have to be very cynical and to have completely given up hope in humanity to stop trying to make positive change in the world. Without people working and fighting for peace and justice, how else can we improve the lives and experiences of generations to come? We would not be where we are today without the work of social activists fighting for rights like equal employment opportunities, women’s suffrage, and desegregation. Likewise, the work we do today will have a huge impact on the lives of those to come.
Let us all try to do the work that is necessary to improve our communities, our society, and the world.