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Think global, and act local

| Wednesday, August 22, 2018

We’re often told to be the change we want to see in the world, but changing the world is a daunting task. There are billions of people on Earth who you will never get to meet and probably won’t influence in any way over your lifetime. This huge responsibility is one reason many studying in South Bend are under the impression that it’s necessary to move to a “real city” to find a job that will make a difference. However, I would like to make the case that South Bend is an ideal incubator for people who want to change the world.

As I close my third year at Notre Dame, I reflect on how fortunate I’ve been to be active on a team that develops an engineering project with local community partners each year. My first time really getting out of the Notre Dame bubble freshman year was attending a neighborhood organization meeting at LangLab, a renovated warehouse in the Southeast neighborhood that is at once a concert venue, art gallery, coffee shop, and small business incubator. I met people who really care about where they live and how their neighbors are doing. Fast forward two years, and the same neighborhood organization is helping my team design solar-powered Wi-Fi pavilions. They are excited about promoting sustainability in their neighborhood and increasing internet access for their neighbors. They are driven to improve, enhance and enjoy South Bend because it is their home.

Most of us have heard about Mayor Pete Buttigieg, “the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of,” as a progressive figurehead of the city, but he’s not the only one making change. The Bowman Creek Educational Ecosystem brings together local high school and college students as well as community members to implement environmental and social sustainability through technology in the Southeast neighborhood. The organization Near Northwest Neighborhood Inc. is committed to providing affordable housing and empowering neighbors through grassroots efforts. The Robinson Community Learning Center provides an environment for promoting peace and education by sharing knowledge across age groups and demographics. These organizations and many more are creating positive change locally yet effectively. Might we undergrads aspire to adopt a similar mission?

As insulated as we may feel from the outside world sometimes, we need to remember how much we benefit from being part of the South Bend community, and giving back should be more than an exercise in resume building. Whether you read with kids at the Robinson Community Learning Center on Eddy Street, volunteer with Unity Gardens to promote health and sustainability, or simply take a Saturday morning to stroll around the Farmer’s Market, you not only contribute something of your own, but also gain something more. This community that surrounds us for four years has a vibrancy and a drive for positive change that inspires me, and if all of us are willing to engage genuinely with this city, I am confident it will provide opportunities to understand how to change the world for the better right here, right now.

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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