Activating activism

By By Lauren Mangelson

By Lauren Mangelson

“Wanted: Political Activists.”

Members of the Public Interest Advocacy student group handed out flyers with this message at last Friday’s Crimson Nights. Members of the Bennion Community Service Center founded the group — which aims to influence state legislatures to bring about social changes — nearly 15 years ago.

“It is politics and policy combined with service,” said junior communication major Andrea Corwin, the group’s director. “We’re trying to create social change.”

Every fall the group reinvents itself by choosing a new issue to lobby for. In recent years, the group has focused on issues such as increasing the state fund for children’s health insurance. The group was also successful in its attempts to influence West Valley City in placing restrictions on predatory money-lending businesses.

This year, PIA’s projected focus is issues surrounding the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“We want students to connect with democracy,” said Curt Larsen, the student programs manager of the Bennion Center.

Lobbying at the Utah State Legislature is just one aspect of the group’s fight for social change. This semester, the group has partnered up with the Progressive Student Youth Council in a project called PostSecret. Modeled after the popular website,, both groups have collected postcards from students detailing their experiences with Utah’s current sex education curriculum. The postcards will be displayed at the Utah State Capitol during the 2008 legislative session next winter.

The group is a challenge to run, Corwin said. It is constantly seeking out new connections and projects geared toward social awareness, she said.

“We want to start students thinking that they can make a difference,” Corwin said. “This is a democracy. We have a right to be involved, to educate ourselves and help educate others.”

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