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Members of CALPIRG at UCLA discuss experiences promoting club’s campaigns

Karishma Raghuram, a first-year statistics student, joined the California Public Interest Research Group at UCLA because she liked its advocacy for clean oceans. Although she often experiences rejection, she said the most important thing about her job is that she is raising awareness about the issues that matter. (Emmy Shaw/Daily Bruin)

By Bobby Hekel

March 4, 2020 1:09 a.m.

No walk to class at UCLA is complete without being approached on Bruin Walk by a student bearing club flyers or petitions to sign.

But what is life like from the perspective of one of these club members working on Bruin Walk?

Karishma Raghuram, a first-year statistics student, knows well what it is like to table and flier on Bruin Walk.

Raghuram is an intern for California Public Interest Research Group at UCLA, a student-led advocacy organization that lobbies for issues such as renewable energy, public health and hunger on college campuses.

One of the things that drew Raghuram to CALPIRG was its Plastic-Free Seas campaign, which advocates for clean oceans.

“Growing up in Orange County, these kinds of issues are on the forefront,” Raghuram said about ocean pollution.

Raghuram spends much of her time on Bruin Walk promoting CALPIRG and the many programs it supports.

Getting people to stop by the CALPIRG table is not about following a script but about being friendly and approachable to students passing by, Raghuram said.

Students are often willing to talk because the issues CALPIRG advocates for are issues students care about, Raghuram said. Although many people respond positively, Raghuram said she sometimes gets rejected as well.

“Totally,” Raghuram said. “All the time. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions.”

However, Raghuram said the important thing is that the organization is raising awareness for issues that matter.

Raghuram’s shifts vary depending on what event she is working. On Friday, she was working at a tabling event to raise awareness for food insecurity on campus and get people to sign a petition to commit UCLA to eliminate student hunger.

Raghuram’s shift ran from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. For the first half of the shift, she worked the table. Then, she spent the rest of the time on Bruin Walk with a clipboard asking students for signatures for the Zero Hunger petition.

The event was a joint effort between CALPIRG, the CalFresh Initiative at UCLA and the Challah for Hunger UCLA, said Kathryn Gonzalez-Valle, the vice chair of CALPIRG at UCLA and fourth-year history student.

The Zero Hunger petition had gained 1,400 signatures as of Friday afternoon and is projected to be at 1,500 by the end of the campaign, Gonzalez-Valle said.

On Friday, each volunteer was given a personal goal of 10 signatures every hour, said Keya Vijapure, a first-year physiological science student and CALPIRG volunteer.

Raghuram, who started as a CALPIRG volunteer week zero of fall quarter, is already an intern and is a pledge captain for the Plastic-Free Seas campaign.

One of the best things about working for CALPIRG is that being involved in the organization is a great way to implement social change, Raghuram said. It has also been vital to her personal growth, she added.

One of her favorite stories from her time working for CALPIRG was a conversation from a pledge drive, Raghuram said. She was talking to a student who was unsure about pledging.

What made the student change her mind was that she was pregnant and wanted her child to grow up in a better world, Raghuram said.

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Bobby Hekel
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