Sarah Wyatt (’20)

Taking this semester off, Wyatt is working at NextGen America

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Sarah Wyatt (’20)

Sarah Wyatt ('20) is an elementary education major with an interest in educational policy.

Sarah Wyatt ('20) is an elementary education major with an interest in educational policy.

Cara Keith ('21) | Chips

Sarah Wyatt ('20) is an elementary education major with an interest in educational policy.

Cara Keith ('21) | Chips

Cara Keith ('21) | Chips

Sarah Wyatt ('20) is an elementary education major with an interest in educational policy.

Linh Do, Staff Writer

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   It can be daunting for students to take time off of school to pursue their passions, but Sarah Wyatt (‘20) has done just that and decided to spend this semester working for NextGen America.

        “I was terrified when thinking about making this decision,” Wyatt said. “I never thought that I would take a semester off. But I know I feel a weird sense of peace when I’m taking time to change things for future Iowans.”

Wyatt was an intern in the fellowship program under NextGen America, an environmental advocacy nonprofit and political action committee, last semester. She is now a full-time field organizer for NextGen Iowa. This committee currently works at three different college campuses: Luther, Northeast Iowa Community College, and Upper Iowa University.

    “I couldn’t see my life without it this fall,” Wyatt said. “I decided midway through the summer [that] I wanted to take some time off school and fully devote myself to this amazing movement. Now I’m doing it and it’s lovely.”

    Wyatt works remotely from Decorah and out in the field. She often goes to the caf to register voters and speaks with people about why their votes matter.

   “It’s going really well,” Wyatt said. “I decided that I needed to do more to help elect progressive candidates and that’s what NextGen is all about. We really work to engage with young voters to elect progressive candidates, which is amazing.”

Photo courtesy of Sarah Wyatt (’20)
Sarah Wyatt (’20) and Piper Wood (’21) encourage students to register to vote.

  At Luther, Wyatt is an elementary education major and an active member of Luther College Democrats. President of the Luther College Democrats Alex Sekora (‘19) supports what Wyatt is doing at NextGen.

   “She is always very excited about her work and about getting students to register to vote,” Sekora said. “She’s very energetic about it and always puts her 100 percent into it. She is getting more students involved that weren’t traditionally involved with us before.”

      Wyatt is particularly interested in politics and policy from her position as an elementary education major.

     “Eventually, I want to work in educational policy,” Wyatt said. “Especially as someone who is going into teaching, politics is very intertwined because we have legislators who are making our decisions about what we can teach and what we can’t teach. I want to have some more control over what is going on in my own classroom.”

    Wyatt wants to make policy changes and thinks that working at NextGen gives her a chance to look at how the process works. She has been speaking to professors at Luther as well, who have helped her combine her two passions into a possible career in writing educational policy.

   Wyatt’s passion has already led to her making change at Luther. Piper Wood (‘21), who volunteered with Wyatt last semester, thinks Wyatt inspires others because she believes in change and others’ power to make change.

  “She started talking to me about registering voters,” Wood said. “She is such a positive person [who] made me want to go out and volunteer with them because she has a lot of passion and a drive for what she does.”

   Now Wood is in Wyatt’s position from last semester: an intern under NextGen Iowa’s fellowship program.

    “Sarah prompted me to take on the position in a fellowship with NextGen,” Wood said. “She inspired me to be passionate about it and now I am here and I work for [NextGen].”

  Wood was surprised when Wyatt decided to take a semester off from Luther to work for NextGen, but expressed her support for Wyatt.

  “I’m really happy for her … especially seeing her in action now and knowing that she is doing exactly what she needs to be doing, which is awesome,” Wood said. “I think what she saw is the ability to make a difference by taking that semester off. [And] she is the perfect person for it because there is no one better [at] talking to college students than a college student.”

    Wyatt hopes to see how her effort pays off on Nov. 6, Election Day.

    “I hope to see an unprecedented number of youth voters going out and making their voices heard so that we can really elect these progressive candidates who stand up for our values,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt is living in the moment and enjoying her experience working at NextGen.

  “If I wouldn’t have had that attitude when I first applied to NextGen, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am right now,” Wyatt said. “Taking a semester off allows me to learn about myself as a human being. I have always been at school so this is a chance for me to learn about who I really am and what my passion is without schooling.”

  Wyatt encourages students to be involved in such a unique experience.

   “I really love education and I really love politics,” Wyatt said. “I wake up every single day doing something that I love, making a change.”

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