New York City Council Member Vanessa Gibson Inspires Political Science Students

New York City Council Member Vanessa Gibson Inspires Political Science Students

New York City Council Member Vanessa Gibson Inspires Political Science Students

John Jay students inducted into Alpha Theta Theta, a Chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honor Society, walked away from their induction ceremony on April 29 feeling energized by Council Member Vanessa Gibson from New York City’s District 16. After congratulating the students, Gibson offered encouraging words of advice on civic engagement, the value of mentors, and highlighted the important role they will play in the future. “What this means for all of you, and certainly what I recognize, is that you are now a part of an incredible body of new leaders,” said Gibson. “You represent not only the National Political Science Honor Society, but also John Jay. And it’s so important that we make sure to uplift the voices of our young adults and continue to invest in the next generation of leaders.”

“It’s so important that we make sure to uplift the voices of our young adults and continue to invest in the next generation of leaders.” —Vanessa Gibson

Seeing Her Potential
Providing an example of how she was lifted up by those that came before her, Gibson told the students of her experience at both CUNY and SUNY, and how it led to meeting mentors and her role as an elected official. “I am what you call a twofer, in that I went to both CUNY and SUNY. During my senior year at SUNY Albany, I learned about a full-time internship with the New York State Assembly, I applied and got accepted. It was the very best decision I’ve ever made,” said Gibson. That internship would lead her to work with the Honorable Aurelia Greene, an Assembly Member from the Bronx. “After my internship ended and I got my degree, Aurelia Greene, one of the most respected African-American women in the state legislature, gave me a job. I didn’t know it at the time but she was elevating me to something bigger.” When Greene decided to leave office, she asked Gibson to run for her vacant seat. “After 27 years, she was asking me to succeed her. I was amazed that she had so much faith in me, but I’ll admit when she asked me to run, I didn’t think I could do it,” said Gibson. Following a pep talk from Greene, Gibson saw a clearer picture of her potential. “She said to me, ‘I’ve watched you grow from a college graduate to the woman that you are now. I see the strength in you to do it. You are prepared for this whether you believe it or not.’” 

Vanessa Gibson
Council Member Gibson tells John Jays students about her own college journey

“By supporting CUNY and SUNY, and supporting the resources and programs that are in place at institutions like John Jay, we pass the torch on to our future leaders.” —Vanessa Gibson

A similar scenario would play out a few years later when council member Helen Diane Foster was leaving office in District 16 in the Bronx. “Helen came to me and said ‘You’ve been in the Assembly for four years, would you be interested in running for the City Council?’” Gibson told the audience with a smile on her face. “And here I am, six years as a Council Member.” Gibson’s point was that those that came before her offered a helping hand in bringing her to the next level. As a CUNY and SUNY alumna, and Council Member, she sees the opportunity to use her voice and position to help younger generations. “This work is about elevating our young people to the next level,” said Gibson. “By supporting CUNY and SUNY, and supporting the resources and programs that are in place at institutions like John Jay, we pass the torch on to our future leaders.”

Council Member Gibson tells John Jays students about her own college journey

“Nothing in life is easy, but when you can make a difference, even if it’s just in one person’s or one family’s life, all the work and challenges you face are worth it.” — Vanessa Gibson
 

Seeing the Students’ Potential
Before closing out her speech, Gibson reminded the students of their own potential. “In my district, a lot of times we say ‘If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.’ If you don’t stand up and act as an up-stander in your community, then that means you’re on the sidelines as a bystander,” said Gibson. “I want you all to know that right now, in this room, I see so much potential. I see a lot of up-standers. I see students destined for success.” She continued, letting the students know that you don’t need to run for elected office to effectuate change. “So many of the movements supported by the City Council have been started and led by people on the ground level.” She added, “You just have to be determined and committed to your community and the desire to change it for the better. Nothing in life is easy, but when you can make a difference, even if it’s just in one person’s or one family’s life, all the work and challenges you face are worth it.”

To support informed participation in our democracy, the College provides access to public officials in their official capacity and candidates without regard to political party affiliation or policy views. Views expressed are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the College. See http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/sites/default/files/legal_counsel/pol_activities_memo.pdf