Student Activism, A Chain Reaction

NYPIRG Proves That Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

By: Olivia Frasca

NYPIRG encourages students to speak up for political issues they care about. (Credit:

Take a look around and you’ll notice that everyone is expressing themselves. Whether through fashion, music, art, or writing, we send a message to others about who we are and what we believe in.

Perhaps the most valuable form of expression is action, such as voting in elections. Young adults have significantly lower voter turnout compared to older demographics.

Many college students tend to think that they don’t have the knowledge or potential to impact the community, so they choose not to cast their ballot when Election Day rolls around.

NYPIRG, the New York Public Interest Research Group, is a nonprofit organization that serves as an outlet for students to take political action. The group has statewide presence on many college campuses, including CUNY.

Drew Poling, the Project Coordinator with NYPIRG, and Samantha Finley, the Environmental Protection Intern for NYPIRG at CSI, believe student activism is the cornerstone of change.  

The organization allows students to get directly involved in issues they care about. Whether it’s advocating for the environment, affordable education, mass transit reform, or public health, there’s an interest for everyone to pursue.

Poling and Finley hope to inform students about the environmental policies of major states such as California and New York. Although Governor Brown and Cuomo claim their states are climate leaders, their actions speak otherwise.

The use of harmful natural gases such as methane, continuation of fracking, and spread of power plants threaten the overall community. As a climate leader, New York should promote renewable energy.

Environmental problems impact all people, says Poling. As a society, we inherit the long-term effects of fossil-fuel based electricity. These harmful practices pose a threat to society’s health, climate, and natural land.

In particular, hydraulic fracturing, called fracking, is a drilling process used to extract gas and oil from rocks. The consequences of this activity include pollution, earthquake risk, and respiratory illness.

Thanks to years of activism from groups such as NYPIRG, the danger of these activities has been brought to light. New York has passed legislation to limit fracking, but there is still more to be done.

“The green economy has been ignored for far too long and is finally being pushed from the back-burner into the wide open. Carbon pollution and solar energy are no longer going to be ignored- it is a victory for all New Yorkers,” says Finley.

If young people have the ability to influence legislation, why are they hesitant to speak up?

“They [students] are often shot down about their ideas. More than that, I believe they have a hard time being able to find someone help these ideas reach ground-level,” Finley states.

Poling adds that the hardest part of activism is starting the conversation. One productive voice is all you need to send a message to others and begin a movement.

This year at CSI, NYPIRG has several activities planned. Students can participate in mental health panels, clothing drives, food donations, and shelter work.

The group kickstarted their initiatives this semester by handing out voter registration forms to students on campus.

Interning with NYPIRG will not only help others in the community, but will also benefit you. Poling says that civil engagement brings a sense of fulfillment to interns.

These civic skills cannot be learned in class, but are instead developed through real-world experience. Such skills are useful in all majors and career paths a student chooses.

Though one voice may be small, many voices will make a lasting impact. NYPIRG is a platform for informed students to meet like-minded peers that want to make the world a better place.

The NYPIRG office is located in 1C, Room 218 and welcomes all students. The organization holds chapter meetings in 2N, Room 111.

Finley puts the nature of student activism simply: “The more students involved with NYPIRG, the more change we can make, the more politicians listen, and the chain reaction continues.”

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