Student Political Action Coalition
Empowering youth to reclaim their civic agency.
Lehigh University freshman, Raina McKoen, in front of the Washington Monument at the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018. Her sign reads "Power to the Peaceful." Raina is the chair of the Social Policy Committee in Lehigh's chapter of SPAC.
Lehigh students look on as speakers present at a SPAC sponsored "Signmaking Party" in preparation for the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.
Pennsylvania State Representative Steve Samuelson was one of the guest speakers featured at a SPAC sponsored "Signmaking Party" on March 20, 2018, in preparation for the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. Other attendees included ACLU PA State Board Member Joe Welsh, Lehigh University Chief of Police Jason Schiffer, Bethlehem City Chief of Police Mark DiLuzio, and Lehigh University President John Simon.
Chloe Sider, Sara Boyd, and Ryan Bailey tabling on Lehigh University's front lawn to take student sign ups to attend the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C.
Sara Boyd and Ryan Bailey on the T-Mobile billboard in Times Square, New York City, the day before presenting at the United Nations Committee on Teaching about the United Nations Conference.
Ryan Bailey and Sara Boyd after presenting at the United Nations Committee on Teaching about the United Nations Conference on April 6, 2018. At the UN, Sara spoke about civic activism and youth participation in the political process on a panel titled "Protecting and Encouraging Our Youth", while Ryan presented at an Information Fair with handouts about the Student Political Action Coalition.
The official logo of the Student Political Action Coalition.
Amber Wallace, a Lehigh University student, on the SPAC sponsored trip to Washington, D.C. for the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018.
From left, Sara Boyd, Chloe Sider, and Ryan Bailey lead a group of ~150 Lehigh University students as they make their way towards the Washington Monument to eat lunch before attending the March for Our lives in Washington, D.C., on March 24, 2018.
The roughly 150 Lehigh University students who traveled to Washington, D.C. for the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018, pose for a picture in front of the Washington Monument.
The Lehigh University students on their way to the Washington Monument to eat lunch before heading to the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018.
Website or social media url(s) (optional):
Instagram: @studentpoliticalaction, @lehighspac
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)
1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."
After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, we decided that we had to do whatever was in our power to help sustain this new wave of student activism. We started the Student Political Action Coalition because we saw widespread youth political apathy in our communities, at our university, and across the United States that we knew could be fixed if students realized the strength of their collective will. The problems that this generation face are such that require the transformation of political apathy into political empathy, and SPAC exists to help the youth reclaim their grasp on the most complex political and social problems of our time.
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
At SPAC, we aim to re-engage the American youth in the political processes that impact their daily lives. The American youth is a historically underrepresented group due to systemic disenfranchisement, lack of capital, and not being taken seriously. This disengaged youth is a threat to the health of our democracy, which only functions properly when citizens partake in their governance.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
SPAC has a three-pronged approach to our projects, which we call the Path to Change: Empowerment, Dialogue, and Action. We will empower student leaders to spark civic participation on college campuses. We will open and sustain dialogues among students and with those in power on issues important to America’s youth. We will then take action that results in policy and systemic change. Our Path to Change is cyclical and self-sustaining. Empowered youth initiate dialogue. Dialogue leads to action. Action inspires more dialogue. The youth must feel connected to our societies in order to be motivated to change them. Our Path to Change is the process by which we have seen this happen, and hope to see it continue in the future.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
You can be involved with SPAC first by working to create a new chapter in your college or university, school district, or community. SPAC is currently working to develop a chapter starting guide. This guide will be designed to ensure that the chapter is sustainable and the chapter stands with the mission, vision, and values of SPAC. We are currently in contact with several students who will be opening a chapter of SPAC at their schools, including Princeton and Salem State University. These chapters will create the opportunity for student leaders to direct their interests and concerns into real policy change at their schools, in their communities, and beyond. Chapters also open the door for students to get involved the second way: by joining their local SPAC chapter. SPAC chapters make it easy for students to become involved, and they teach students how to stay involved.
5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
SPAC is different because it is an organization for students, by students. Other organizations with the similar goal of re-engaging the youth in the political process are not youth-run. They recruit youth leaders on college campuses and make them to do what they think is best to stimulate youth participation. At SPAC, we know that to get the best results, we need to listen to the experts: the students who actually attend a particular college. They know what really matters to students there and how best to reach them. SPAC’s goal is simply to give students the tools and resources to do so.
6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
On March 24, 2018, SPAC coordinated three buses to take 150 Lehigh University students to the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. This was SPAC’s biggest event to date. In preparation to the event, we hosted a “Signmaking Party” where students had a chance to talk with local leaders and learn how to safely and peacefully demonstrate. The leaders in attendance included Bethlehem City Mayor Bob Donchez, the chief of Lehigh University Police Department and the chief of the Bethlehem Police Department, PA State Representative Steve Samuelson, and ACLU PA State Board Member Joe Welsh. In a little over a month, our first chapter of SPAC was able to organize this event. We hope that this success will be emulated in our future chapters and that SPAC will be able to empower an ever greater number of students. We have also been guests at the latest UN CTAUN Conference where we shared our story.
7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
Due to the nature of SPAC, we plan largely on a semester by semester basis. During the Fall of 2018 we have a few events in the planning stages. First, after hearing concerns from many students about fears of school shootings and a lack of blue lights, we are working with the Lehigh University administration to create a campus advisory council on safety. We also hope to host a debate between the candidates for the PA 7th congressional district Susan Wild and Marty Nothstein. Our biggest event next fall will likely be our planned voter turnout competition against our rival college, Lafayette College. Additionally, new university chapters of SPAC are set to open up in the fall of 2018.
8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?
In order for SPAC to fully realize its vision, we are in need of college students willing to open SPAC chapters at their universities or colleges, a central location for our needed headquarters in Bethlehem, PA, funding to cover various expenses relating to expansion, marketing, and sustained campaigns, mentorship to help guide our efforts to file as a 501(c)4 organization, and publicity.
9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations over $10k
10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.
SPAC has partnered with hundreds of Lehigh University students, several Lehigh professors and faculty members, and the Chattanooga Students Leading Change (CSLC) group to help push our efforts forward. It is our continued connections to young leaders from all across Pennsylvania and the rest of this country that make SPAC successful.
How did you hear about this challenge?