Views expressed in guest columns are the author’s own.
Working to advocate for University of Maryland students to the College Park City Council has been an honor and a humbling experience. Through my three-plus years at this university, I have met many students and College Park residents through my involvement in various city committees and organizations. I have been a part of actionable improvement and have gained skills impossible to acquire inside the classroom. This all started because I was asked to get involved. Now, I want to make that same ask of you.
College Park is well on its way to becoming the quintessential college town. Through city council efforts, the Greater College Park Initiative and the University District Vision, we are growing our city and helping it realize its potential.
Members from across the College Park community participate in organizations such as the College Park City-University Partnership to tackle issues such as housing and redevelopment, transportation, public safety, education and sustainability. The university is working with the city council to supply childcare options to some College Park residents and university personnel. We have come a long way as a city in the past several years and cooperation between the various communities is at a remarkable highpoint.
As College Park continues to grow, challenges for students still linger. Students still have trouble finding affordable housing and continue to have problems with certain landlords and their living conditions. Students continue to be invested in new transportation options and voting opportunities. It’s a great source of pride to me that students are on the front lines of street cleanups and beautification projects. I hear every week about the various community service projects that students are involved in.
Students here are incredibly passionate about what they do and their vision for their community. Still, we need to encourage more student involvement in College Park to raise our voices and demonstrate our commitment to the community we are building.
Students have brought actionable change to College Park. Students advocated for increased access to absentee ballots and were a major reason the city now has no-excuse absentee voting. Students were involved in relocating game-day tailgates onto the campus and have helped ensure that the tailgates are safe and secure. Students have continued to build strong relationships with residents and community leaders from Old Town to north and west College Park. Students make a notable difference here in College Park.
It is in this vein that Student Government Association president Jonathan Allen, deputy liaison Serena Saunders and I set out to create the Student Advisory Committee. The committee’s aim is to establish a space for students to discuss city issues, while bringing in both city and university personnel to have a dialogue.
All nine voting members of the committee are students, with certain campus organizations getting automatic seats. There are, however, three at-large voting seats. I am writing to encourage all students at this university to get involved in the College Park community and consider applying for one of these at-large positions. Priority will be given to those who are not associated with the SGA. This is a unique opportunity to bring more students into public service. No experience is required.
I was once asked to get involved. I now make that ask of you. You are a pivotal part of what the vision for College Park is all about. Come have your voice heard. If interested, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to hear from you soon.
Alex Tobin is the College Park City Council Student Liaison. He can be reached at email@example.com.