Career Corner: How to be a Civic Engagement Coordinator

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Career Corner: How to be a Civic Engagement Coordinator

The Library's civic engagement coordinator, Diana Veiga, talks to Ginger about fighting voter suppression and making sure D.C. citizens are counted

This fall, the Teen Council will be interviewing local professionals for a series called "Career Corner". The goal of this series is to give teens the inside scoop on what it takes to get different jobs. Check out Ginger Holmer's interview with Diana Veiga, Civil Engagement Coordinator for DC Public Library.

Do you like getting involved in your community? Does program or project management over an intuitive you care about, intrigue you for a career? Well… are you interested in civic engagement or being an engagement coordinator? Diana Veiga, a Civic Engagement Coordinator for DC Public Library shares the exclusive of what it’s like being an engagement coordinator and advice to prospective teens. 

Introduce yourself!
My name is Diana Veiga. I’m the Civic Engagement Coordinator for DC Public Library. I’ve been in this position for 18 months, but I’ve been with the Library for 6 years and started as a Library Associate and worked at Anacostia and Bellevue branches. Prior to joining DC Public Library, I worked as the Program Manager in the African American Religious Affairs Department at People For the American Way. I attended Spelman College and received a BA in French and graduated from American University with an MA in Public Communication. I’m originally from Silver Spring, Maryland and have lived in D.C. for 11 years. Outside of work, I love writing and storytelling.

What has been your favorite job and why?
I’m not sure that I can say I’ve had a favorite job because my three most recent jobs (Girl Scouts, People For the American Way and DC Public Library) have all been fulfilling in different ways and have helped me develop new skills and grow as a professional. I can say that being the first Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Library has been a really exciting opportunity. My first task when I started in the position was developing the process for all library branches to be voter registration agencies per the DC Council’s law. DC Public Library has officially been providing voter registration since Sept. 2019. I’ve also served on Mayor Bowser’s Census 2020 Complete Count Committee and made sure our libraries played a major role in assisting people who needed to complete their Census. Finally, I’ve been able to do some creative programming around the themes of civic engagement and voting. 

Do you have any recent projects you would like to share?
I’ve been working on a lot of civic engagement programming since we are in the middle of a historical election. One program was a virtual screening of the documentary Suppressed 2020: The Fight to Vote followed by a moderated panel discussion on voter suppression. Another virtual program I’m excited about is, "I, Too, Sing America: An Evening of Storytelling Celebrating Democracy" that [was] on Thursday, Oct. 29. It will feature 5 storytellers sharing stories around the themes of voting rights and citizenship. I’m also looking towards the future and creating programs that will inform people on how to be engaged in their community and around important issues after the election.

What does your typical day look like?
A typical day involves working on or leading the programs I’ve planned, serving as Library's liaison to the DC Board of Elections and ensuring libraries are complying with any requests they have for us, assisting staff at the branches with voter registration or election questions, and answering a lot of emails.

What skills have been vital to your career?
·   Program and project management – being able to take a project from an idea all the way to completion. This means having the big picture of what you want the end result to be and also having the discipline to fill in the small details to make the project successful.

·   Organizational skills – making to-do lists, adhering to deadlines, being able to manage multiple projects at a time

·   Being able to adapt to change – Having a plan is important, but being flexible and able to adapt when you’re thrown a curveball is necessary.

·   Creativity –  Coming up with fun and innovative programs that will be beneficial to the population you’re serving is important and will keep you engaged in the work.

What advice would you give to teens wanting to become a civic engagement coordinator or program manager/director?
·   Start building your skills early, especially around program and project management. If there’s an idea for a project that you have, figure out how you can get it done. Write your idea down and then write out what steps you would need to take to make it happen. And then challenge yourself to get it done.

·   Find a mentor. Find someone who is doing work you admire and ask them if they’d be willing to talk with you about how they got there and what advice they might recommend for you.

·   Get involved at your school in student government or with other clubs/organizations where you can have a leadership role so that you can start getting experience on working on projects and working with diverse people. 

What are some ways that young people can louden their voices and get more involved in the community?
It’s important that young people become engaged because the issues that adults are voting on will have an impact on your future. If there’s an issue that you care about – voting rights, climate change, gun control, etc., - find an organization that is dedicated to changing the status quo and find out how you can become involved. Read different newspapers – local, national, global – to learn what’s going on in the world and how things are connected. Attend your neighborhood/community meetings and learn about what issues people are fighting for or against. Volunteer and canvass for politicians whose ideals you support. Register to vote as soon as your state allows you to do so. Attend protests and marches if it’s safe to do so. Make your voice heard by sharing your views and experiences on social media, in writing, and other mediums.

What is one of your favorite books, TV shows, or movies?
One of my all-time favorite movies is The Five Heartbeats directed and written by Robert Townsend. One of my favorite books is Tumbling by Diane McKinney-Whetstone.

Diana shares that early skill-building, creativity, project management, adaptability, and taking leadership positions in school government or clubs can help anyone aspiring to be a civic engagement coordinator or wanting to create their own community projects. She shares the importance of youth engagement in politics and encourages all to get involved! Find what you love and read the other Career Corner articles to learn more about potential career options at dclibrary.org/teenscorner.