The undergraduate student advocacy organization, UConn Praxis, held its kickoff event yesterday in the University of Connecticut Student Union building.
The event was led by the organization’s president Natalie Seier, vice president Rebecca Tripp, treasurer Ben Albee and retention recruitment director Gianella Anyosa.
Tripp said UConn students will be inheriting a world that is far from perfect which is why they must “take up space.”
“Visionary, mediator, mentor, strategist, thinker, writer, dreamer…mobilizer. You’re in here somewhere, and I want you to hold onto the word that resonated most with you,” Tripp said. “Leaders don’t fit in a box. They think outside it and define how to take up space.”
Undergraduate Student Government President Mason Holland said student activism was one of the most important things that students have at UConn.
“We are tired of bringing truth to power, because we’re the ones that have power within ourselves,” Holland said, “I think that really, really does point towards what student activism is.”
He said the two things that make activism particularly important on campus are students coming together to advocate for something that affects them and that student activism is what “pushes the needle.”
“Things change when we’re the ones that say ‘this is not enough,’” Holland said.
Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merill especially encouraged students to get involved in voting, noting that in 2008, university students had several problems voting with 4 to 5 hour long lines.
“It started a revolution,” Merill said, “And it started us down a path of trying to get access to voting for everyone.”
She said it is important to be a part of a group like UConn Praxis in order for students to have their voices heard, because it takes everyone to preserve the right to vote.
“It’s gonna be up to all of us to fight for it,” Merill said.
Srimayi Chaturvedula, a ninth-semester political science and business major, said that her campaign was close to her heart because she witnessed hunger and homelessness all the time in India.
“These are things that are actually happening at UConn, there are people who are food and home insecure,” Chaturvedula said. “What I want to do is do everything I can to make life easier for people like that.”
Nia Moore, an eighth-semester student, said she has learned a lot working with UConn Praxis and plans to create a database of the courses on-campus along with their associated prices for textbooks.
“I’m graduating in December, so I won’t be able to use it, but hopefully it will be added on to and will be beneficial for students in the future,” Moore said.
Moore also said she feels it is a great experience to be around like-minded people that respect and care about the things she also cares about.
Anthony Figueroa, a first-semester sociology major, said he liked the event, and that it was good to see students who were passionate about what they were talking about.
“I’m a big environmental person, big women’s rights person and affordable textbooks [advocate]. I think if you ask any student, we all want affordable textbooks, it’s ridiculous how much these textbooks cost,” he said.
Figueroa said the “Hunger and Homelessness” campaign interested him the most because he had witnessed homelessness first-hand.
“It’s sad to see. They’re people that you care about, and they don’t get to experience regular life like you and me,” Figueroa said. “I really want to take ‘Hunger and Homelessness’ back to my town, which is Norwalk, CT, and give back to all those people that I care about.”
UConn Praxis was formerly the Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, but recently rebranded because it is no longer affiliated with the Connecticut PIRG branch.
There were a total of 5 campaigns that were highlighted at the kickoff, which included “Affordable Textbooks,” “Sustainable Skies,” “Women’s Rights,” “Zero Waste” and “Hunger & Homelesness.”