In her earliest memories, Megan Turner ’18 can see her mother planning service projects. Turner was still a child when she joined in for the first time, along with her sister and brother, delivering blankets and food to the area’s homeless.
The moment stuck with her. That’s when she sensed the beginnings of something she would carry into her college years.
At UMW, Turner has woven her childhood passion for service into her daily life, where it has gone far beyond a college extracurricular.
For her, it’s a government event.
Turner, a psychology major in the elementary education program, took her daily community involvement one step further when she joined in former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Task Force on Millennial Civic Engagement last semester.
Selected as one of just 17 student representatives from Virginia colleges, the task force worked from August to December to encourage voting and community service among students.
“The goal was to identify problems universities face when it comes to civic engagement,” Turner said, “and try to come up with recommendations and solutions that might address the problems.”
While Turner’s passion for service now has her on the steps of government buildings, it began long before her involvement with the task force. In fact, she chose UMW in part for its culture of service.
Before stepping across the brick walkways of this historic campus, Turner had done her research. She looked up UMW’s service organizations and found that Community Outreach and Resources (COAR) was the prominent offering.
Beneath the sweltering August sun, she maneuvered through the endless rows of tables at the annual semester event, Club Carnival. She peered across vibrant student-made posters, searching for the white lettering of the COAR sign.
She knew COAR was for her.
Turner’s involvement with COAR carried throughout her four years at UMW, ultimately earning her the position of Student Staff Director for the organization. Turner’s dedication caught the eye of COAR’s Director of Service, Christina Eggenberger, who nominated her for McAuliffe’s millennial task force.
“She understands that volunteering is more than something to do in your spare time,” Eggenberger said. “It’s a way to change our community for the better and has the power to make lasting impacts on the people you work with.”
In the active months of the task force, members met in the city of Richmond, often convening in the historic Patrick Henry Building. Surrounded by ceiling-high bookshelves, the student representatives discussed how to fix the universal issue of student engagement.
At first, Turner was nervous. Sitting among students with strong backgrounds in government and politics, she wasn’t sure what she could bring to the table they sat around.
Turner’s time with COAR fixed that.
“My experience with COAR brought a unique perspective to the task force,” Turner said. “I have a strong service mindset, while others on the task force are focused on issues of voting and civic engagement. I think it is important to have representatives with diverse backgrounds on the task force to examine things from different perspectives.”
At the end of their endeavor, Turner and the other representatives provided Governor McAuliffe with a list of recommendations and solutions for the consistently important issue of student voting, such as making universities places where students can register to vote.
“It’s small things like that which can have a long-term impact,” Turner said.
And that felt good, she said. “As millennials, we’re sometimes looked down upon in terms of civic engagement. I think this task force showed that there are millennials who do care about civic engagement in this country.”