Centre students trade spring break revelry for hands-on civic engagement

by Matt Overing

Centre College News
Students visited the Kentucky State Capitol during an alternative spring break trip on Monday, March 20, 2023.

Students met with Kentucky elected officials in an "alternative spring break," taking an immersive look into the Kentucky State Capitol and real-world civic engagement.

Centre College students of all majors opted in for a visit to Frankfort for an immersive alternative spring break trip.

The visit to the Kentucky State Capitol, offered through the Office of Civic and Community Engagement, gave students the chance to meet leaders in local government — and proved to be eye opening in the world of civic engagement.

Nathan Whitlock ’22, Centre’s Community Outreach and Support Specialist, helped schedule the event and said that Centre students are deeply interested in knowing more about civic engagement.

“It just makes sense that Centre students get to know Frankfort when it is so close to Danville,” Whitlock said. “Whether learning about the need for poll workers in Kentucky from Secretary of State Michael Adams or just shaking hands with Centre alum Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, hopefully the students feel inspired to be more civically active in their communities.”

Along with Adams and Coleman ’04, 10 students met with recently elected Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, who represents District 19 in Louisville.

Students visited the Kentucky State Capitol during an alternative spring break trip on Monday, March 20, 2023.
Students met with Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman (right) during their alternative spring break trip to the Kentucky State Capitol. 

“Hearing from Sen. Armstrong, you can tell she's passionate about what she does, where she comes from and her story,” said first-year student Lauren Stein. 

Stein, a Massachusetts native, said that she also learned more about Kentucky governmental processes and how to get engaged.

“When they spoke about how to get involved and how to be an advocate, I think that it's super important for us young folks to get involved and educate others,” she said.

Sophomore Mril D’silva, a computer science and international studies major from Ahmedabad, India, said that the trip gave him a unique opportunity to speak with the Kentucky’s leaders.

“You can tell (Lt. Gov. Coleman) really cares about the things that she's working on, like public education,” he said. “What I liked about her was that she really accepted the places where there is still considerable work needed, rather than just talk about technical things. It was a good experience to hear from these leaders because they're working on important issues every day.”

Alternative break trips at Centre are made possible thanks to partial funding from Kentucky Campus Compact. The trip to Frankfort showcased exactly how a liberal arts and sciences education helps students prepare for life after graduation, Whitlock said.

“The majority of students on the Frankfort trip were not politics majors which I think is a testament to how a liberal arts education empowers students to be leaders and changemakers in their future field of work,” he said. “Biology, computer science, international studies, Spanish, math, and anthropology majors all came to Frankfort to better understand what our leaders do and what it means to be civically engaged.”