Civic Scholars Gephardt News

Marissa Lerner ‘19 Prepares for Life-Long Citizenship

The Gephardt Institute catalyzes WashU students to become actively engaged citizens. Civic Scholar Marissa Lerner ‘19 reflects on the impact of Gephardt Institute programs throughout her three years at Washington University. In addition to her participation in the Civic Scholars Program, she has served as a counselor for Leadership Through Service.

When I first arrived on Washington University’s campus, I instantly felt a connection– the energy of an inspired student body, passionate professors, and a place that cares deeply about making the world better. I had no way of knowing how much I would change at WashU over the next few years, specifically due to the efforts of the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement.

Three years later, the Gephardt Institute has provided me with the resources and mentors to ask big questions, expand my understanding of my civic vision and leadership capabilities, and push me to become the best version of myself every day.

During fall break of my first year, I had the opportunity to experience Leadership Through Service (LTS), a program that exposed me to St. Louis’s culture and history and suggested means for further engagement past WashU’s campus boundaries. I made some of my best friends while simultaneously learning just how much work there is to be done for equity in our city.

The following summer, I returned as an LTS Counselor to facilitate a pre-orientation program for incoming students. In many ways, helping my peers to see the larger picture and personally connect with St. Louis was more rewarding than my own journey the previous year. The Gephardt Institute supports these important programs that provide incoming students with tools, knowledge, and context for being responsible, thoughtful St. Louis residents.

Currently, I feel incredibly humbled and honored to be part of the 2019 Civic Scholars program cohort. Our mentors Theresa Kouo and Purvi Patel engage us in reflection about ourselves, the most pressing issues of our society, and how we may work to catalyze positive change. My cohort consists of some of the most empathic and ambitious people I know.

Through my coursework with the Civic Scholars, I am learning how to listen more deeply and engage more meaningfully. With this training and scholarship, I will create a civic project this summer, specifically around environmental justice and how communities connect over greenspace.

Through my experiences with LTS, I have seen firsthand how the Gephardt Institute educates students holistically on civic engagement. Additionally, it is an understatement to say my experiences as a Civic Scholar have shifted my paradigms – they have revolutionized the way I think about building community, entering conversations, and approaching important issues.