CALPIRG (California’s Public Interest Research Group)
CALPIRG Students, a nonprofit specifically based in California, has connections to similar public interest research groups across the nation. “There’s a federation of student PIRGS and we will run some of the same campaigns. For example the new voters project, which is a non-partisan voter registration campaign in several states,” UCSD junior and CALPIRG State Board Chair Sophie Haddad said. The organization uses volunteers and interns to help facilitate social change for a variety of causes.
College students notoriously put themselves on the line in the name of important causes they believe in. CALPIRG similarly fights for causes important to college students, including environmental protection and student welfare. This nonprofit organization has ties to larger national organizations, so students across the nation can participate in their campaigns. If interested in volunteering or earning an internship position, check out our guide to CALPIRG.
What We Do
CALPIRG works with and for students on important social issues. “CALPIRG is a student run and student funded org that does advocacy to protect the environment, make college more affordable, alleviate poverty and more. We use grassroots methods and lobby with our elected officials. We’ve been around for 45 years, and have actually accomplished a lot in that time,” Haddad said. According to UCLA CALPIRG Vice Chapter Chair Nic Riani, CALPIRG has worked on important issues that 70% or more of the population agree on including environmental protection and public health and safety. Its proceeds, which come from student donations, go towards helping professional staff who train student volunteers, printing petitions, traveling to lobbying trips in Sacramento, as pictured above, and Washington, D.C. and more.
Who We Help
With a wide variety of issues important to this organization, CALPIRG has a long list of beneficiaries. “We actually help everyone because the issues we work on impact everyone in the world. We work for clean air/water, civic engagement, public education. Those are things that affect everyone,” Haddad said. Specifically, since CALPIRG serves as a student-run organization, students particularly benefit from CALPIRG’s campaigns. “We help students not only by winning our campaigns, but by training students to be effective activists, leaders and citizens,” Riani said. Overall, CALPIRG aids in many different important efforts.
What It’s Really Like
Whether as a volunteer or intern, working for CALPIRG proves incredibly fulfilling. “Working for CALPIRG is really rewarding because you help fight for justice on important issues,” UCLA junior and former CALPIRG volunteer Griffin Carter said. “Most days working for CALPIRG are spent petitioning on campus or recruiting over the phone.” According to CALPIRG UCLA Chapter Chair Nico Gist, students can work a variety of jobs such as canvassing, posting fliers, running social media campaigns, petitioning and more. As an intern, students take on an even greater responsibility. “Interns will take on a role in one of our campaigns with a specific tactic or project and attend a weekly activism class to learn activism skills,” Gist said. No matter a student’s position, their work fulfills the desire to make a positive social impact.
What you’ll learn
With such intensive and politically involved work, students learn a variety of leadership and communication skills. “You can definitely improve public speaking and writing and learn how to work with media and get coverage, speak in front of groups. You can also learn basic campaign skills, recruiting and tRianing volunteers, generating grassroots support, organizing large events and basic lobbying. And even leadership skills,” Haddad said. Many of these skills translate into other fields and job opportunities.
How to get involved
Not interested in volunteering or interning but still want to help? Consider tacking on an additional $10 to your tuition payment. “Students who opt into adding a few dollars on their tuition are what powers us to win huge legislate victories,” Haddad said. In addition, students can sign petitions and spread the word about CALPIRG’s work. “A basic level of involvement makes a big difference,” Gist said. CALPIRG makes it easy for students to participate in various events and causes, including their nonpartisan voter registration and the “Save the Bees” campaigns. No student has an excuse not to get involved.
Skills that impress them
According to both Gist and Haddad, CALPIRG searches for students who have a willingness to learn and have a desire to make social change. “If you have that desire to make an impact on these issues, then we can train you on how to do that,” Gist said. No matter your skill set, you can find success and make a difference in CALPIRG.
If interested in getting involved, visit CALPIRG’s website, https://calpirgstudents.org/ or visit their on-campus office (at UCLA, check out Kerckhoff Hall room 160). You can apply for internships or for a volunteer opportunity. “Full time jobs include becoming a campus organizer for a student PIRG chapter where you will train students in leadership skills and skills required to run successful campaigns,” Riani said. You will gain experience working on projects that aid a wide range of issues, including one of their most recent projects: connecting with dining halls to promote visibility of ingredients.