“If I had to describe my experience in one word, I would say amazing,” said Latasha Charles, a New England College sophomore, who alongside fellow sophomore Kadiatou Coulibally recently attended the annual Debating for Democracy conference in New York City.
All schools involved with D4D are part of Project Pericles, a consortium that NEC belongs to that promotes civic engagement and social responsibility in and out of the classroom. The New York City conference provided students with the necessary tools needed to solve problems as well as get their messages heard by fellow students and elected officials.
On day one five schools competed against one another to debate five different issues with the top two going on to win $3000 each. On day two five schools were asked to speak on their topic with New England College being one of them. Students were then divided into groups and placed in workshops geared towards their specific political or social issue.
Latasha and Kadiatou would find themselves in two different workshop groups. One workshop was geared towards global urbanization and another focused on creating accessible produce in poorer communities, but both shared the same purpose: to let students know what is going on and inform them on how they could get involved.
When speaking about her experience with Harlem Grown, a non-profit organization that encourages children to live healthier lives through education, Coulibally explained, “It spoke to me after realizing there are a lot of people that don’t have access to healthier food. I got to witness how the founder Tony Hillery helps low income communities eat better. He showed us that in a two-mile radius there are over two dozen fast food restaurants. We hear about poverty all the time but to see it up close is something entirely different.”
During this three-day event many schools from around the nation were brought together with many different students with different backgrounds. With such an inclusive environment
you can’t help but wonder how much of a role diversity played when it came to input on issues such as immigration, education, and poverty.
When asked if diversity played a factor, Coulibally answered, “It did. Some of the school’s students were more well-rounded. In comparison to Morehouse and Whitman, New England College has a lot of first generation students, so naturally we have different experiences, which at times made things feel one-sided.”
Debating for Democracy is a rather unique experience considering students not only get to meet students from different schools and learn about their campuses, but also about important issues that may not always get talked about. But along with being thought-provoking, D4D’s intent is to get students to ponder how they might get more involved on and off campus.
This intent was not lost on Coulibally and Charles, as both agreed with the idea of starting D4D clubs on college campuses. “During Debating for Democracy some pretty big issues were brought up, Coulibally explained. “Having a club would be a great way to recruit those who are passionate about change.”