Constitution Day educates students on activism and local government


The American flag flew high on Wednesday, Sept. 18 on the Moorpark College campus. The flag pole is located at the North-West corner of Fountain Hall. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

By Madina Safdari

Two hundred thirty two years ago the U.S. Constitution was signed in Philadelphia. On September 17 that event is commemorated and observed as Constitution Day.

Moorpark College held festivities on the quad to acknowledge the signing of the Constitution and more importantly to encourage students to get involved in civic engagement.

“I think it’s really important to have events that either bring people together, to foster community, to expose people to new ideas and things that they didn’t know much about before hand and to help hopefully expose them to possible career pathways that brought in their personal interests,” Student Activities Specialist Kristen Robinson stated.

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Interim President Julius Sokenu and California State Assembly Member Jacqui Irwin stand on stage in the quad during Constitution Day on Tuesday, Sept. 17. Photo credit: Madina Safdari

The event began at 11 a.m. with opening remarks from Moorpark College Interim President Julius Sokenu on the outdoor stage. A Bill of Rights Quiz and Free Speech Forum followed, where students were allowed to go on stage and express their opinion on any topic of choice for one minute.

The main event included a panel of local elected officials. Those who couldn’t attend were represented by members of their staff. English professor and former Senior Policy Associate Tamarra Coleman coordinated the event with Robinson and hosted the panel. The panelists described what their jobs were like and passed on advice to students on how to get involved in their communities.

State Assembly member Jacqui Irwin spoke about how to start a career in politics, and mentioned internships and programs the district office has available for young constituents.

“I think the important thing now that you are here in community college is to advocate for things that you feel passionately about… Get passionate, get involved, push the issues that are important to you and make sure to vote,” Irwin said.

Adding on to Assembly member Irwin’s advice, Denise Kniter, operations manager for California State Senator Henry Stern, shared how to partake in advocacy.

“I think the answer is to start with one thing that you care about and start by getting informed and involved with one group. And it doesn’t have to be every single day you’re out at a protest, but it can be you and a friend decide to write postcards to your representative about something you care about and that’s already impactful,” Kniter said.

The final panelist, Nina Moussavi, the district director for Rep. Julia Brownley left the audience with some final words of wisdom.

“I think first and foremost, don’t ever underestimate the power of a small group of people to be able to incite change in your own community… The people who represent us in our state assembly and our state senate and the federal government, they are perfect examples of people who started small and started making small changes in their community and one thing led to another and now they are putting bills forward that are gonna affect everybody in a state,” Moussavi stated.

After the panel concluded, students were encouraged to visit the handful of booths set up with information from groups like the Moorpark Democratic Club and the Ventura County Republican Party. The event concluded at 1 p.m. and students left with free snow cones and a better understanding of activism.

“I think the panelists said it best, in that there’s just a plethora of ways that people can be involved whether it’s working directly with a representative, to serving on a school board or committee, any of those things,” Robinson said. “I think it’s really important to find an issue that resonates most with them and figure out ‘How can I get involved?’”