Student Opportunity Leaders in Virginia & Ohio

by Sean Kesluk   •  

The Opportunity Nation campaigns works hard to support student leaders who carry the banner of enhanced economic opportunity and social mobility both at their schools and in their communities.  Given the undeniable link between education and opportunity, and the responsibility of youth and students to invest in their collective future, these student leaders – or Opportunity Scholars as they are known within the campaign – are proving incredible assets to the Opportunity Nation mission. Today we are going to highlight the efforts and commitment of two of these students in the Super Tuesday states of Virginia and Ohio.

Erik Lampmann, an Opportunity Scholar with the Opportunity Nation campaign at the University of Richmond, is aggressively raising awareness about the state of opportunity at his school, in his community, and in the city of Richmond. A leader on campus in promoting an environment of acceptance and opportunity for the LGBTQ community, Lampmann advances progressive politics and political engagement through his work co-founding the university’s branch of the Roosevelt Institute.

Lampmann’s work on campus focuses on empowering students to invest in a positive future. His efforts support the long-term opportunity and capacity of the LGBTQ community to thrive within a system perceived to generate systematic disadvantages. According to Lampmann, these initiatives are helping to move “American society one step closer to a culture of opportunity with the United States that celebrates each individual across lines of social difference.”

Economic opportunity and social mobility are issues that will resonant with voters come Super Tuesday. The Opportunity Index shows a clear distinction between the two neighboring communities of Henrico County and the city of Richmond; the former receives a “B” grade and the latter a “D” in opportunity. “Educational opportunities, income distribution, and access to vital community services are radically dichotomous between these two locales,” states Lampmann.

The Opportunity Index tells similar stories of communities across the country, and is just as relevant in Virginia as it is hundreds of miles away in Ohio. Theresa Hubbell, a student at Otterbein University just outside Columbus, Ohio, is telling that story to her community as an Opportunity Scholar with the Opportunity Nation campaign.

Hubbell is helping to organize a “Women and the American Dream” summit next month, at which she will be presenting the Opportunity Index to participants. The Index illuminates the state of opportunity in counties across the United States through statistical analysis of their economies, education systems, and community engagement. Hubbell considers the Index a useful tool in “identifying areas in our country that need attention and what areas have the resources to help others.”

This selfless and collective approach epitomizes the values behind the Opportunity Nation campaign. By working together Americans can once again build the country and the American Dream they believe in. Hubbell will be encouraging summit-goers to share the Opportunity Index with their representatives in the hopes of raising national awareness about opportunity-related issues.

Hubbell says the Index is generating an understanding of opportunity and its crucial role in progress, and is using this awareness to empower real change. Although she knows that she is “living in a different America than some of my neighbors,” the work Hubbell is doing on behalf of Opportunity Nation is expanding access to that American Dream to many throughout her community.

Like Hubbell, Lampmann recognizes that “to combat the root causes of social immobility, we need philanthropic infusions as well as a re-energized activist base.” By working with Opportunity Nation and leveraging the support of their fellow students, Lampmann and Hubbell can advance this vision for their campuses, their communities, and even their states as Super Tuesday approaches. There’s no doubt that these voices will have a role to play at the polls come Election Day.

Sean Kesluk

Opportunity Nation

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