By Elliot Gray December 10, 2018

Interning with Defend Our Future at Temple University has truly been a pleasure, and has contributed to my personal growth immensely. This semester, our efforts were mostly focused on mobilizing young voters for the critically important 2018 midterm elections. Some of our day-to-day actions included canvassing to form connections with potential voters and phone banking to strengthen these connections. Additionally, we held several office visits to local and state legislators, participated in the Zero Hour Climate March in Washington, testified to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the repeal of the Clean Cars Standards, and penned multiple opinion pieces to regional newspapers. All of this work was done with the goal of getting leaders who will act on climate issues elected, an especially important goal given the fact that our environmental protections are under attack by the current administration.

Spending the semester working with my peers at Defend Our Future gave me many opportunities to develop as a person, both professionally and socially. I was able to hone my communication skills in professional settings, especially when we visited the office of Philadelphia Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. I also able to improve my formal writing skills when I wrote two published letters to the editor, in which I argued in favor of strong climate policy and discussed the historic rise in youth voting in the 2018 midterms. Finally, I met so many amazing, hard-working peers through, many with whom I have developed strong friendships.

Along with all of the incredible opportunities that my semester with Defend Our Future has presented me, I have also been given the satisfaction of knowing that I contributed to history. Young voters turned out in historic numbers for the 2018 midterms, and I can honestly say that myself and my peers in Defend Our Future helped to empower many young people to get out and vote. Whether it was through registering voters at our table, assisting people to vote with our Get out the Vote campaign, or merely exuding political activist energy by wearing Defend Our Future swag, I truly feel as if we made a difference this year. In short, interning with Defend Our Future was a life-changing decision, which helped to improve my skills and focus my professional development, and allowed me to effectively advocate for mother nature. This is why I encourage others to volunteer or intern with Defend Our Future!

Elliot Gray is a junior at Temple University.