Public Service Beyond the Classroom
Congrats to Aniah Francis,’22, this year’s awardee of the Leo T. McCarthy Award for Public Service! Aniah graduated last month with a BA in Politics and a minor in Public Service and Community Engagement. This award is presented to a senior who has promoted social justice through public service throughout her undergraduate career. Aniah was a USF in DC Fellow and a Community Empowerment Activist (CEA). Read Aniah’s responses to our questions to learn more about her experience in our programs and her post graduate prospects .
1. How has the McCarthy Center programs shaped your future career goals and aspirations?
Through different programs at the McCarthy Center, I’ve been able to learn and explore different issues that impact the world on a structural level. It is through the McCarthy Center courses such as the Leadership for Civic Engagement that I made the choice to switch my major from International Business to Sociology and understand that more than anything else I wanted to be a change agent. Through the programs that I’ve been a part of I was able to specific my goal to build a coalition at an international level that actively seeks to conduct research and policy change, as well as provide resources for Black girls across the diaspora.
2. What is your biggest takeaway from being a Community Empowerment Activist and later a teaching assistant for the program?
I think the biggest takeaway for me is how important the CEA program is in bringing to life the “change the world from here” motto. This is a program that actively develops students’ organizing skills through relationships with community partners within the Bay Area. Additionally and most importantly to me is how much the CEA program disrupts the traditional banking model of education. In most classroom settings, there is this dynamic in which the professor has all the power and knowledge that is then deposited on students. But engaged teaching pedagogy teaches us that for a classroom to actually be successful it means recognizing the power within students and their experiences and that teaching is a mutual experience as information is exchanged. CEA is one of the only classrooms that I’ve been a part of that recognizes the power in students’ lived experiences and the knowledge they hold. Additionally, it disrupts the idea of who holds the knowledge. CEA actively believes in bringing in guest speakers who are in the community doing the work and also are the most impacted. They can talk about these issues from a real-life perspective rather than a theoretical perspective that is wildly out of touch with the real world perspective. This allows for a more authentic dialogue that is deeply rooted in the ideas of community and revolutionary love. It is through this radical approach to education, I’ve grown so much as a critical thinker and activist.
3. What has been your most impactful experience in the community?
I think my most impactful experience would have to be recently for our CEA end-of-year celebration. This was a celebration that was two years in the making and it finally happened and it was completely worth the wait. From the perspective of a former CEA and current TA, it was so beautiful to watch how this program grew throughout the years and how it really is a big family. Everyone who instructor Jackie Ramos brings into this space is family and you feel that when you step into the space. When the members from United Playaz got up on the mic and gave advice, and when Lonnie Morris of No More Tears imparted words of wisdom, it was emotionally overwhelming, to say the least. Not only did we work with these organizations but we grew with them and to have a space where we actually celebrated that—felt full circle to when I first came into this program and a beautiful way to end my time with it.
4. What do you know about Leo T. McCarthy and how you are carrying out his legacy?
Leo T. McCarthy is an immigrant who through his lived experiences has become a “champion of justice”. As an immigrant myself, I want to continue the work of dismantling systems of oppression through research and policy. I want to continue working with others until this world is free.
Read about other Community Empowerment Activists, Alaia Zaki ’23, Aisha Williamson-Raun, Isabel Tayag.