Co-founder and Executive Director Michael Ceraso’s long career in political activism started at a community college. After completing his A.A. degree from Citrus Community College, he went to work on Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign where he discovered that he was not as prepared as other students that had completed political internships and training programs. Michael realized that his school lacked government and political career opportunities offered at four-year universities. Community Groundwork is his attempt to bridge the divide for community college students. Given his experience as a State Director, Director of Data Management, and Campaign Manager, Michael knows what skills are needed to prepare the next generation of future community leaders.
While most colleges offer courses in subjects like Government, Foreign Policy, Political Philosophy, and Comparative Government, no education institution currently offers a workforce development program to help students launch a career in political organizing. Finding entrée into this sector can be especially arduous for students with challenging economic circumstances as they are not able to volunteer on long-term campaigns due to financial constraints. Nonetheless, access to the campaign trail should not be limited to a privileged few.
What Makes Community Groundwork Different?
While other political and non-profit organizations work with or on issues related to a specific gender, race, or party, they do not focus on educating students as a means of workforce development. Community Groundwork is a non-partisan agency specifically targeting one of the most vulnerable education populations in the state for such an opportunity. The California Community Colleges’ #RealCollege Survey, the largest annual assessment in California that measures students’ basic needs such as food and housing security, found that “rates of basic needs insecurity are higher for marginalized students, including African Americans, students identifying as LGBTQ, and students considered independent from their parents or guardians for financial aid purposes…50% of respondents were food insecure in the prior 30 days, 60% of respondents were housing insecure in the previous year, and 19% of respondents were homeless in the previous year,” (California Community Colleges, 2019). Unlike other similar agencies, Community Groundwork will take students’ financial well-being into consideration and will cover the students’ transportation and parking expenses once funding is secured. We will also provide stipends for the most economically challenged to assure that student participation is not hindered due to financial limitations.
Community Groundwork recognizes that some students lack the confidence to participate civically without a program to activate their curiosity and foster their creativity. This organization was founded to create a safe space for students with diverse backgrounds and experiences to participate actively as civic citizens as well as consider professional opportunities in the field. The program provides access to some of the most effective trainers in the country, which allows students to learn the skills they desire and require to have impactful careers in politics. As the modern political landscape continues to evolve, it is more important than ever to ensure that we are educating and supporting future generations as they strive toward professional excellence in the world of politics.
Partnering with community colleges, local campaigns, and city and state agencies, Community Groundwork is ready to ensure talented students move through the professional pipelines of their choosing.
Interested in learning about how we achieve this? Read more here!