GeoVisions is proud to present this guest post by Karen Middleton, President of Emerge America, a premier training program for Democratic women. Karen also served as a Democratic Representative for the state of Colorado and was on three committees - House Education, Business Affairs and Labor, and the Legislative Council.
For as long as I can recall, I have always felt a strong sense of civic responsibility and a commitment to my community. Interestingly, I do not remember how and where this was instilled in me. I vividly remember registering to vote on my 18th birthday, and casting my first ballot that same year. As I have voted and engaged in my community in other ways, it has been both a source of pride and a consistent theme in my life.
While I know I have this gut-level sense of myself, I have spent several years trying to find the best way for us and our society to instill this same sense in our children and students across America. When I see someone throw trash out their car window, or tell me they don’t vote, I have a strong physical reaction and wonder what we can change and why I have this sense when others don’t? While I have long felt this way, I don’t know where I learned that lesson and how it was so deeply embedded. If I knew, I would bottle it to share. You might ask, how are these acts linked? To me, it is whether you care about the world around you and whether you participate to make the world better.
I have tried to impact this type of thinking in two ways. First, I spent several years working with civic education issues – how to teach it, what it should include and how to incorporate it in schools across the country. I participated in both state and national groups to help affect this policy change. While there are many splendid examples of how to do this work well, I don’t know how many people have been impacted and if it has worked. Reports were produced, conferences were held, materials were shared, and websites were developed.
Second, I taught political science for a couple of years and tried to engage students in this type of thinking myself. We talked about the impact that just one person, just one voice, and just one vote can make to change the world. It may be a big problem, or a local issue. Was I successful? I am not sure. I definitely engaged some of my students in some of my classes to think differently about their place in the world. I can only hope that my continued efforts, through example, and by continuing to engage in other ways.
In addition, I presented this issue to civic groups who are part of the fabric of community engagement. Interestingly, they were struggling with how to best reach young people to both offer their guidance, and to support them. Groups like Rotary or Civitan are equally challenged by how to reach the next generation of young people to engage them both as future members and recipients of community and civic engagement work.
This is work we must all continue to think about and continue to work on as we lead by example and share our time and energy to inspire others to join us as voters, volunteers and active members of our society. It is a journey we take together.
There are quite a few companies out there offering low-cost airfare. Here are a few we recommend to people who plan to volunteer or teach abroad:
The Airfare Guru
Fly For Good
But my point in this post is that anyone out there who provides airfare for students, teachers, and volunteers...thank you. And while you're finding lower fares, where you could also be of great help is to negotiate reduced airline fees or negotiate that the airlines get rid of them totally for teachers, students and volunteers.
To illustrate my point, take a look at this chart I downloaded from Smarter Travel. It is very current...updated on April 6. It lists 14 airlines and 12 different fees the airline charge passengers. Just click on the link above and take a look at the chart.
I just returned from meetings in and around London and I flew on United. Because I fly constantly, I don't have to pay all these fees. But had I been going over to volunteer abroad or teach abroad, here is what I might have had to pay in fees on United, in addition to my airfare and taxes:
$25 for my bag.
$45 for my 2nd bag (Int'l charge)
$25 booking fee
$9 for extra leg room on the International flight
$9 for a meal plus $6 if I want wine or beer
And that totals up to $119.
On Student Universe, I can fly over June 1 from New York to London and return on July 31 for $280 and then add $389 in taxes and security fees and then add my $119 in airline fees (above). The airline fees are almost 50% of the airfare and the taxes and security fees are even more than my airfare.
So I'm asking all of you out there who brag about how low your airfares are (and they really aren't all that low if you don't fit a very small demographic like student or maybe a teacher), you could help our volunteers by asking the airlines to get rid of those extra fees. We will give the airlines proof that our volunteers are who they say they are and they are going abroad to volunteer their time. This is how you can be helpful to everyone. I understand you can't get rid of security fees and taxes, but the rest of those fees? You can negotiate that for us.
So if I'm a senior citizen (and I almost qualify) and I can't access the student airfare, I'm going to have to pay full freight to buy my ticket through you. But if I go ahead and buy my airfare from you anyway and prove I'm going to volunteer, why can't you help me by getting the airlines to get rid of all those extra fees? That helps everyone and it would certainly sell a lot more tickets on your site.
Please? Anyone else have ways to help?
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