By David Ertischek ’01
Audrey Seraphin ’16 knows how to encourage young people to be civically engaged. Good thing. It’s her new job as the director of SPARK Boston.
As the director, Seraphin leads the SPARK Council, which she was part of for one year before being hired this September. SPARK Boston is a city initiative that uses innovative ways to empower Generation Z and millennials to play a greater role in planning for the future of Boston. A large part of the organization’s mission is to draw a larger and more diverse range of young Bostonians to be involved.
As a council member, among other initiatives, she helped plan two “creative economy mingles” at the Boston Public Library’s Newsfeed Café. The events focused on bringing together millennials of color working in creative industries in Boston.
“I admired the council’s work,” Seraphin said. “I’ve always been the friend who’s politically engaged. I’m always having the tough conversations about race, income equality, voter rights, affordable housing, and women’s advancement.”
Seraphin said it’s very easy to use her interests in those crucial issues within her position.
“2020 is a banner year for engagement with elections and the U.S. Census,” said Seraphin, who majored in Theatre Studies. “We’re doing a lot about voting. How to vote, mail-in voting, we’ve done a series about SPARK members who worked as polling location workers, and we’ve promoted appreciating polling location workers.”
In her first month on the job, Seraphin led a virtual town hall with City Hall representatives, including At-Large Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia, on how 20- to 24-year-olds can be civically engaged during the pandemic.
“We launched Civic Coffees, a 30-minute Facebook live show every month where two SPARK Council members do a talk show interview with young civic engagement leaders,” said Seraphin.
Seraphin joined the steering committee for the Central Square Theater after graduating, became involved in ArtsBoston, and the Network of Arts Administrators of Color (NAAC) Boston. She credits Emerson in teaching her the value of networking, and she’s always running into people she knows through Emerson connections.
SPARK Boston Council members serve one-year volunteer positions, and applications are open for the next Council through October 30.
So how do you engage young people?
“We have a large social media presence on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We hold conversations there in informal ways. There’s a lot of peer networking,” said Seraphin. “We look for really engaged people looking to learn about being more engaged.”
Council members need to attend city meetings, host events for peers, and organize with their neighbors. Council members are usually people who are have attended community meetings, but the Council looks to deepen their engagement.
“What’s really special is my main job is to support constituents. I’m supporting people interested in being engaged. They tell more people and they bring their friends,” said Seraphin.
Millenials and Generation Z are already very engaged online, and are more racially diverse than previous generations, said Seraphin. She has been impressed by Generation Z’s passion and engagement level, evidenced by many 16- and 17-year-olds have preregistered to vote.
The younger generations are also starting community aid funds, mutual aid services, and are volunteering more to fill the void of older generations who’ve moved on or retired, said Seraphin.
“They see the current tumultuous times and they want to participate. They’re fighting against the apathy we have no control of what goes on,” said Seraphin.