Trained and ready to go

Blog Post

Climate change. Plastic pollution. Affordable higher education. Turning out to vote. Young people want to make change on the issues they care about, and the Student PIRGs are here to help them. I’m excited to update you on our recent training, where we welcomed 60 new and returning organizers (almost 40 of whom started with us as student leaders while they were in college) who will be working to train and empower college students across the country over the next year at hundreds of campuses.

Training is the heart and soul of our program. We train our new staff to be full-fledged community organizers, equipped with the skills to enter a community of college students and recruit and train them to run grassroots campaigns that get thousands of their peers engaged and involved every year. This year marked the first time our training program was entirely virtual, and our organizers will be working remotely over the fall, enabling them to reach more campuses than ever. Read on to see how our team will be taking the skills they learned from training to organize hundreds of thousands of students across the country!

Our partners joined training to brief our organizers on the work they’ll be involved in this fall. Left: Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, executive director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge at Civic Nation. Right: Jasmine Jones, Organizing Director for Rock the Vote.

Training and recruiting new leaders

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many campuses and communities are looking for ways to stay connected, and students are looking for ways to make a difference. Our training focused on how organizers can engage new student activists, swapping methods like grabbing a clipboard and heading to the quad for remote organizing skills, including how to run phone and video meetings and honing digital storytelling skills.

Staff highlight: Florida Organizer Sithara Menon got her start freshman year at UCLA working to secure commitments from the state of California and the UC system for 100% clean electricity with CALPIRG Students. This fall, she is taking a semester off to work full time as a campus organizer at Florida State University. In her first week on the ground she took the skills she learned at training to run her own statewide training for over 40 Florida students, teaching them how to organize and run a digital voter registration and turnout drive, and how they could recruit their peers to get involved.

In the last 10 days, our new staff have engaged more than 300 student volunteers to help register their peers to vote

Building strong coalitions

We know that making progress is built on strong ties in our communities. That’s why we welcomed partners from Rock the Vote, Michigan Voices, the ALL IN Challenge, the California Secretary of State’s office, and the Break Free From Plastic coalition to our training to highlight the important partnerships our field teams have on the ground. Our training teaches new organizers how to build strong and diverse coalitions in their own community.

Staff highlight: Michigan Organizer Julia Alexander got her B.A. in Political Science from Oakland University and was the Vice President of the student government, where she organized voter registration drives on campus and was recognized with the school’s prestigious Leadership in Diversity Award. Coming out of training, Julia worked with Lansing Community College and over 10 coalition partners, including the Diversity Officer, the Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Club Soccer Advisor and the League of Women Voters to make sure every student at orientation gets a chance to register to vote. Julia reports: “I want to help students channel their power to make change. Doing a roleplay over Zoom is a bit hokey but it definitely helped me feel confident about entering the Lansing community!”

More than 300 faculty, student groups, campus staff, and administrators across the country have joined our local vote coalitions this fall

Learning by doing

No training is complete without practice! Putting their new skills to the test, in just a few hours, organizers made over 1,000 contacts to help students in North Carolina register to vote and hired more than 100 new interns. New staff were able to see valuable demonstrations of our training principles in practice, and get feedback on their skills based on real interactions.

Staff highlight: Georgia Organizer Julia Geskey graduated from the University of Mary Washington, where she majored in Political Science. Julia started with us as a Summer Intern as part of our Democracy Summer program, helping her peers register and make a plan to vote. So far, Julia has put the skills she learned through our internship and training program to the test, hiring over 20 interns within the first three days of school starting.

More than 400 students have accepted positions in our Fall 2020 internship program

Reaching students in new ways

As our team and much of the country continues working remotely to help stop the spread of COVID-19, we focused on boosting our organizers’ skills in organizing online, from social media to running successful online meetings and events. We also trained our staff in the use of new relational organizing technologies, mass texting and phonebanking tools, and our own one-stop-shop for student voter registration and assistance, As we work remotely this year, will be critical to ensuring students are registered to vote and set up to cast a mail-in ballot from their correct address.

Staff highlight: North Carolina Organizer Jai Williams graduated from the University of Cincinnati, where he majored in Political Science and worked on local get out the vote campaigns. Jai will be taking our voter registration and turnout work to the next level by engaging Community Colleges across North Carolina, working with them to use our nonpartisan voter registration tool and student voting information center,, and help their students register to vote and make a plan to vote this fall.

Campuses that enroll a combined 300,000 students have agreed to use, the Student PIRGs New Voters Project’s nonpartisan voter registration tool, to help their students register to vote

I can’t think of anything more rewarding than getting to help train the next generation of activists and organizers, and I’m thrilled to see the great things they’ll accomplish this year. Stay tuned for updates as we report on the work this extraordinary class of organizers will be up to this fall, as we continue our efforts to engage hundreds of thousands of students in our democracy.

We know we are entering uncharted waters as our communities transition to remote classes and take measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But we also know our generation has the energy and innovation to keep up the work for a better world. We may be inside, but we’re #InsideTogether. Learn more about our work to ensure that our government has a coordinated, strategic response to safeguard the public’s health, protect consumers from emerging dangers and ensure people can still participate fully in our democracy.