So he fit right in when he enrolled at Rutgers–Camden. “When you go to school here, there is no excuse to not get involved. Rutgers inspires you to make a difference,” he says. “Everything on the campus, from the classes to the students, has a community focus.”
Involvement–It Runs in the Family
Not that Andrew, a urban studies major, needed a lot of encouragement to get involved. Growing up he was active in student government, volunteered for a suicide-prevention program, participated in historic preservation, and was a member of the Future Business Leaders of America.
He cites as his motivation a long family tradition of community service that started with his great-grandparents. In his family, civic engagement “just comes naturally.”
Deciding to go to Rutgers
Andrew’s work with the Burlington County College Student Democrats organization, a group he founded while attending community college, brought him to the Rutgers–Camden Campus for meetings with other college democratic clubs. The visits gave him a look at how “Rutgers values the importance of social activism and encourages the students to participate.”
At one of the meetings a Rutgers host student asked him “Why aren’t you running in the student government elections? Oh, yeah, I forgot you don’t go here.”
“That question made me think ‘What am I waiting for?’ I knew I wanted to study political science, and I knew I wanted to do it at Rutgers–Camden,” Andrew recalls.
So after the meeting was over he walked into the admissions office and filled out an application to transfer to Rutgers.
Now in his third semester, Andrew appreciates the small-college feel. “If you miss a class, the professors are concerned and they reach out to you. They are really engaged with the students.”
And they have helped him develop the ability to consider many perspectives on an issue. His urban studies professors “make you see how a situation would look if you were in a leadership position or on the street level and a resident,” Andrew says. “Not everyone is going to think like you do in the real world. You learn how to find compromise and build relationships that solve problems in a diplomatic way.”
Room with a View
Andrew also loves that Rutgers–Camden is so close to Philadelphia. “While living on a quiet and peaceful campus where everyone knows your name, you can sit in your dorm room and look at the Philly skyline, knowing it’s just a jump across the water.”
That proximity “offers so many internship opportunities.” Through the Career Center at Rutgers–Camden, Andrew worked on the campaigns of local Democrats, gaining valuable organizing and logistical experience. “Twice this past election season Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Barack Obama were here visiting Philly and I was one of the people actually making sure cars were getting to the airports for these people, and making sure the staging locations were set up.”
Through the contacts he made during his civic engagement activities, he was invited to join the District Council Collaborative Board. This organization, run by the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, brings together residents, local businesses, law enforcement agents, and city government workers to solve problems that affect public safety and quality of life.
Andrew goes on patrols with fellow board members and reports on issues such as abandoned vehicles, uncollected garbage, graffiti, streetlight problems, and overgrown vacant properties that require the city’s attention. “There are so many opportunities to make a difference in Camden. It’s an exciting place to be,” says Andrew.
For Andrew, giving back to his community is more than a family value— it’s his life ambition. He hopes to earn a master’s in urban studies then go on to law school. In the meantime, he is starting his own communications company to build websites that promote community organizations and showcase economic developments in Camden. Andrew wants to help Camden—the city he plans to call home—reach its potential.