ECSU Student Civic Engagement Ramping up for 2020 Elections – GDN Exclusive “A Call to Colors” Vol. II Part XVby Cash Michaels, GDN Contributing Writer June 5, 2019
Student civic engagement is very important to Lacara Ramsey, rising senior at Elizabeth City State University.
Ramsey, 20, a Durham native and psychology major, has only been at ECSU for a year, having transferred there after earning her Associate of Arts Degree at Halifax Community College, where she served as Student Government Association vice president, and president of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society Alpha Eta Phi Chapter, as well as a peer mentor.
During her tenure at ECSU, Ramsey served as Junior Class vice president, and as a member of the ECSU NAACP. She also worked as a shift officer for the Student Engagement Office. And Ramsey plans to get her master’s degree in public Administration, with hopes of aspiring to a position either in government or a nonprofit “…in order to help the community,” she says.
So, let there be no doubt about Lacara Ramsey’s commitment to civic engagement, service, and ECSU, which she says she loves because of its “family environment.”
“We are the Vikings, so we always have Viking Pride, and that’s what Viking Pride is all about…having that sense of community with each other,” Ramsey told Greater Diversity News (GDN).
“It’s like a family vibe.”
And that “family vibe” carries over to the civic engagement activities on and off campus. For instance, Ramsey talked about ECSU’s partnership with Common Cause of North Carolina in co-sponsoring “Don’t Boo, Vote” early voting event last Halloween prior to the midterm elections. A party bus took ECSU students to the voting polls.
Ramsey proudly touts what the campus NAACP does in promoting voting and voter registration drives at the beginning of the school year.
“There were voter registration forms in students’ welcome packets…,” she says,” …as well as tables setup in our promenade area, cafeteria and residence hall.”
ECSU also had a candidates’ rally at the Mickey L. Burnham Fine Arts Center, where candidates came to answer questions about how their election would further help the community. Turnout for that event was “really good,” Ramsey says.
A “Party to the Polls” event at the student bowling alley also promoted civic engagement during the 2018 elections.
“So, we’ve been pretty active when it comes to the importance of voting,” Ms. Ramsey assures, adding that the various student organizations sponsor a march to the polls.
The spirit of student civic engagement is something that is “definitely growing on our campus, Ms. Ramsey says, like the spirit that motivated 1960’s era students during the civil rights movement in their drive for voting rights.
“Our enrollment has grown 19%, so we will have more students coming who will want to be engaged,” Ramsey said. “We already have a lot of good leaders on campus that are involved in civic engagement.”
And with the 2020 state and national elections just a few months away with primaries and the general election, Ramsey says ECSU students are now more aware than ever of how important their roles are.
“I believe that our Vikings definitely want to make a change when it comes to the new political season, because we know that our vote matters.”
Ms. Ramsey, who currently serves as co-chair of the Elizabeth City College Board Council, will be serving next school year as president of Viking City Outreach, is clear that she is not alone when it comes to meaningful civic engagement work at ECSU.
She also credits the SGA under Student Body President Emmanuel Butts; Dr. Stuckey, advisor to the ECSU NAACP along with Dr. Reed and Dr. Coulson-Clark; and Mr. Haedad of Community Outreach.
Recently, ECSU was named one of the top ‘Voter Friendly Campuses’ in the Nation. “Instituting voter engagement, registration, and turnout efforts on college campuses is not an easy feat for institutions,” said NASPA President Kevin Kruger. “With the second iteration of the Voter Friendly Campus program, we’ve learned that campuses that have been most successful in fostering a campus climate inclusive of democratic participation do so by intentionally including multiple facets of the institutions community in fostering the skills, knowledge, and dispositions supporting students’ civic agency.”
GDN recommends that all HBCU SGAs and Black Student Unions (BSUs) incorporate the following in their efforts:
- Standing civic engagement/A Call to Colors committees for SGAs and Black Student Unions (BSUs)
- Students volunteering 8,16, 24 hours or more per election cycle
- Earn up to 200 hours/4 years credit for civic engagement
- Do outreach to Greeks, other student organizations and other schools
Clearly, the ECSU example is one that needs immediate, massive replication.