Campus politics are a means to an end. What you mean to do is get involved and what you end up achieving is an impact.

As students, we have the opportunity to shape the world, which doesn’t end at the borders of the Cal Poly Campus. Though the scale may vary from local to international, the effect is always worth the work. There are those of you who know what I’m referring to – that amazing feeling you get when you help those in need.

As a freshman, I realized that in order to receive a genuinely thorough education, my learning would need to escape classroom walls. Over the past four years, I’ve been involved in clubs, organizations, campaigns and non-profits, and each individually influenced how I see the world today.

But I also realized how much numbers make an influence. Not just the numbers on the bank slip, either, but more significantly, the number of supporters.

On campus, there are many ways to show your support for the causes you believe in, and then there are those that you don’t even realize you’re supporting. Take, for instance, your job, or more specifically an on-campus job.

You might contest and say, “Wait, now that’s not really supporting the organization,” but on the contrary, you too are a part of the agenda. Associated Students Inc., for example, employs more than 500 students on campus, all of whom are unwittingly supporting ASI’s corporate goals. ASI is a business first, and the voice of the students second.

Just like our own national government, it is the employees that keep an organization going, and the few at the top that impact our future. It is the role of these leaders to enhance our experiences, but it is our obligation to define their direction.

And if you work for ASI, you are a supporter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go along quietly. As an insider in any organization, you can leverage your support conditionally and raise the right questions.

There are many adjectives that describe our generation, and all too often apathy is included. I’d like to believe that this isn’t true, that this is just a word older generations use to quell their fear of change. As if by defining us by our inability to mobilize and ignoring our efforts to do so, they can continue to promote the status quo.

But when I see groups like Students for Barack Obama or events like Focus the Nation, I know we aren’t apathetic. If thousands of students can rally together all across this nation in support of what they believe in, then this is just the start.

These last eight years, the Bush administration has made little effort toward positive development in this country. As a result, I can’t help but feel a little cynical about politics as a whole.

The total lack of transparency and vast amounts of secrecy have left me jaded, but still I have hope. It’s easy to deny the corruption and continue to sip from the silver spoon of ignorance. It’s harder to fight, to stand up for our rights and realize that we can make a difference.

However small it may be, and wherever your passion might lie, take a chance and step outside your comfort zone. All too often we look to our leaders for guidance, but I urge you instead to look within, at your own experiences, for the right direction.

We tend to get caught up in school and work, justifying our lack of activism due to higher priorities. Yes, it is difficult to look beyond our experience here at Cal Poly and recognize where future efforts are most needed, but the two are not mutually exclusive.

Collectively, we share the same goals, and together we can achieve them. You may feel like you can’t make a difference alone, but come together with thousands of other students who feel the same way, and you can’t help but make an impact.

Because the truth is, everyone does better when everyone does better, and there’s no denying that the world is in need of better. So join a club, volunteer at SCS, take a class on sustainability, participate in Relay for Life, or attend events like Change the Status Quo.

Make the effort to actively engage in the betterment of our future because now is the only time we have to influence its course.

Erica Janoff is an industrial engineering senior, the president of the Cal Poly Democrats and a Mustang Daily liberal columnist.

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