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Nivedha Balan

LDRS 1015
Catherine Cotrupi
November 4th, 2015
Citizenship Essay

What does it mean to be an active citizen? According to Peter

Block in From Leadership to Citizenship, citizenship is our capacity to
create for ourselves what we had sought from our leaders (Block 2).
This means that as an active citizen, one should strive to provide as
much as possible for ones community; each individual should work
together in order to lead the community to a more prosperous state.
According to the Active Citizens Continuum, an active citizen views
community [as] a priority in values and life choices (Family 5: Active
Citizens Continuum 2). For an active citizen, community is the utmost
importance and everything the citizen does is to help and provide for
that community. Basically, the individual develops personal qualities,
self-awareness and personal values (Family 5: Social Change Model 9).
On a broader spectrum, a group of active citizens have an emphasis
on collaboration and interaction between each other and each
individual (Family 5: Social Change Model 9. The goal is to have an
active community that brings about change for the common good
(Family 5: Social Change Model 9).

For example, in Mary Pipers Reluctant Activists, she writes our

coalition was allowing us to turn our individual anger, fear, and sorrow
into something better and stronger. We had begun as a small group of
peopleand ended up as a force to be reckoned with (Piper 121). In
Pipers experience, her group began as a few people whos intensity
of emotionsrequired [them], reluctant activists, to become more
involved (Piper 115). This is how most active citizens are born.
I can personally attest to Pipers concept of reluctant activism. I
had always been a quiet, shy student who always chose to sit at the
back of the classroom and keep her mouth shut. When I arrived at
Virginia Tech, though, all that changed. I was inspired by my peers and
professors to take a more active role in my community. I began
weaving together new ideas to educate the masses about the stigma
surrounding mental health. As Kouzess Leadership is Everyones
Business, he says, Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership
is an affair of the heart (Kouzes 8). I was floored by the overwhelming
positive response to my admittance to facing mental health issues; it
warmed my heart to find out so many people supported and loved me
no matter what. That support and love inspired me to take a step
towards active citizenship. Since no matter what your position isyou
are accountable for the leadership you demonstrate. And, because you
are the most important leader to those closest to you, the only choice
you really have is whether or not to be the best leader you can be

(Kouzes 2). It is important to be a leader and to strive to be the best

person you could possibly be, so you can inspire people to do the
same, then they could inspire to do the same, then you make a huge
web of inspiration, and you can shift the global consciousness to work
towards a better good of humanity as a whole. You can change the
future and you can change the world (Chadwick 1).
Being an active citizen is all about putting other people and the
community first because once that is done, others will follow in those
footsteps and everyone can work together towards a common goal.
It may seem simple to read and write all this, but how can one
truly live out a life as an active citizen? At Virginia Tech, the most
prominent question is: how can students live out Ut Prosim? It is drilled
into the students heads that they should live to serve others, yet they
are not given a way to do thatand thats because serving looks
different to each person. To one student, it may be volunteering at an
elementary school, to another, its donating to a worthy cause, to me,
its creating videos to educate others. College students can live out
active citizenship by doing any of these and much, much more. It is
important to take an active role in their community by attending
meetings (such as Keystone Happenings), taking a leadership position
(such as being a Peer Career Advisor) or even just taking a class (like
Leadership 1015).

Even though Techs motto is Ut Prosim, it is, unfortunately, a

more passive encouragement. Students are informed of Ut Prosim at
orientation and maybe in one of their five (or more) classes. If the
faculty wants Ut Prosim to be a way of life, they need to incorporate it
into everyday life at Tech. Ut Prosim should be brought up in
assignments, dining halls, emails, it should be splayed across banners
in buildingsthe possibilities are endless. Virginia Tech offers students
so many opportunities to live out Ut Prosimits just that the students
do not know about them. Then again, it is not only VTs duty; it is also
the students duty to encourage other students. Ways to do that
include: making announcements in class, sending out emails, posting
of Facebook, giving out fliers, and putting opportunities up on Scholar
and Canvas.

In my life, I have always been a volunteer, maybe even a

member at one point. As a middle schooler, I was unconcerned about
social problemsI thought I could never make a difference, and so I did
not even try. In tenth grade, I became more of a volunteer. All students
were required to volunteer for 25 hours to graduate. So I did. I did not
look forward to it, nor did I love it. Looking back on it, all I did was scan
books into a librarys database. Now, at Tech, I am a conscientious
citizen. I ask why? And I work hard to distill and explain prominent

problems in todays society. Hopefully, with the help of this course, I

will transform into an active citizen.
My passion, as mentioned before, is mental health reform. I
strive to change the stigma surrounding mental health so that it will be
treated as a physical illnessbecause it is. I have been working on a
video, as explained above. But, I have recently started a Twitter
account that challenges rude and ignorant comments about mental
health issues. I hope to use the Instagram account in a similar fashion
as Humans of New York doesto photograph undistinguishable
characteristics of people with mental health disorders and publish their
stories (with their permission, of course). I hope to later expand this
account to include other campaigns I believe in, such as feminism,
LGBTQ+ rights, anti-rape culture, and fighting racism/discrimination.
There is a lot that I have planned for the future and I dream that I
will reach the active citizen stage as I make my way through all my