SUNY Cortland sophomore Alexandra Cicero has been an issue leader for higher education affordability and voter empowerment and is working to create a food bank for food-insecure students.
So it’s really no surprise that Cicero, a dual international studies and communication studies major from Leicester, N.Y., recently was selected as a Newman Civic Fellow.
The Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes and supports students who are devoted to finding solutions to the challenges facing communities throughout the United States. Through in-person and virtual learning opportunities, the year-long experience teaches fellows about resources that would help them tackle these challenges. Only 273 students from colleges and universities from across the United States were selected as Newman Civic Fellows in 2017.
Cicero currently is studying abroad at University Babes Bolyai, in Cluj-Napoca, Romania during the spring 2017 semester. She has been a student leader in her time at SUNY Cortland, working on projects related to hunger, the environment, social justice and voting. Cicero has taken leadership roles with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and the SUNY Student Association.
“I first heard about the Newman Civic Fellowship from John Suarez,” service learning coordinator for the College’s Institute for Civic Engagement, said Cicero. “I've been working with him and the Institute for Civic Engagement for the past two years. He's always pushed me to do my best, especially in civic or community oriented projects.
“What really inspired me to apply was the amount of opportunities the fellowship had to offer; I would get a mentor, meet renowned leaders and speakers, have national connections, and peers from all over with similar community-oriented goals.”
Cicero completed substantial community service work before attending SUNY Cortland. She has continued as a college student, working to engage students politically.
“As a high school student, I was originally drawn into volunteering because of the National Honor Society. We had required hours every month,” Cicero said. “But often I would go over the hours because the job wasn’t done, or it was actually enjoyable. Anything from helping teachers after school, raking leaves, volunteering at soup kitchens and helping with 5Ks or walkathons. Coming from a small town, you really can see the impact it makes on the community.”
A career in politics may be in Cicero’s future. Her experience studying abroad in Romania has opened her eyes to international politics and relations. She met one of the United States’ ambassadors to Romania during her time overseas.
“Most of my classes are political science, journalism and communications, social sciences, or economics-based,” Cicero said. “I absolutely love the city. Cluj is such a diverse place. I have friends from all over the world here. It’s amazing to be able to sit in a class with students from over seven countries, and then go for coffee with them afterward as though we’ve known each other for years.”
Over the next year, Cicero will gather with peers and mentors for seminars, workshops and conferences as part of the Newman Fellowship.
“What I’m hoping to gain from the program is a whole new perspective and skill set,” Cicero said. “Cortland is a unique community with its own advantages and obstacles. In meeting with mentors and peers from other communities, we’ll be able to share problems and solutions and bring them back to our own communities.”