Students for Arizona Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) is an independent statewide student organization that works on behalf of the public interest.
PIRG is active on more than 50 college campuses across the country, including Mesa Community College.
PIRG strives not only to fight to pass legislation that will benefit students, but also educates students regarding various political issues so young people can successfully participate in the democratic process.
In efforts to better the community, the PIRG chapter at MCC is currently working on three campaigns.
The Energy Service Corps (ECS), coordinated by MCC student Tyler Heaps, is presently PIRG’s lead campaign. The goal is to educate the community about energy efficiency. Members of ECS are going around the community to offer “energy upgrade advice,” according to Heaps.
ECS is also currently working on directly providing various services that they suggest. Part of the campaign’s semester plan is to “go to elementary schools in and around Mesa, presenting lessons … teaching these students to be environmentally and fiscally aware,” according to Heaps.
Another PIRG’s campaign at MCC is making textbooks more affordable for students. One of their efforts to make this happen is encouraging professors to use open-source textbooks. If the faculty agrees to use open-source textbooks, students would be able to download textbooks online for free. More on tips regarding textbook savings can be found on student PIRG’s web site at www.studentpirgs.org/textbooks/tips.
The third campaign is concerned with protecting the Grand Canyon and other national parks from mining and similar industries.
In September, three PIRG members from MCC attended the Grand Canyon’s free admission day and collected signatures for a petition to stop mining companies from setting up operations near the park’s borders.
Last semester, as a part of their 21st Century Transportation Campaign, PIRG helped collect signatures for a petition to pass a new transportation bill.
“We brought (the petition) to the Arizona Department of Transportation among a couple of other organizations, and they passed a bill resulting in a plan to build a high-speed rail between Phoenix and Tucson,” Heaps said.
Improving the community is a reason to get involved with PIRG at MCC, but students can also receive service learning credit as well.
“(Students can) pick up new skills such as event planning and working with the media as well as gain an understanding of how to track legislation,” Lia Mezzio, MCC campus organizer, said. “Having that experience on your resume is great and PIRG is a huge organization, so if you were interested in applying for a job within the PIRG network later, getting involved now would be a leg up for you.” PIRG also partners with several other organizations nationwide, so networking opportunities are abundant.
There are several ways to get involved with PIRG at MCC. Students can become volunteers, interns, or employees, or all three. Volunteers dedicate as much time as they can to the chapter while interns make a bigger time commitment and take on a leadership role in campaign work.
Interns for PIRG must be self-motivated as the duties of the internship involve “planning, brainstorming, and researching to figure out how to make something happen,” according Mezzio. She also said that the internship program is “very student-directed, starting from the ground up.”
The Center for Service Learning, located in the Kirk Student Center, is the place to go to get involved as a volunteer or intern with PIRG located, or contact Liz Meyer at 480-461-7459.
Job opportunities are also available. For more information about job opportunities for current students as well as students with a degree can be found at www.fundforthepublicinterest.org/jobs. Numerous job opportunities for those with a degree are available at www.arizonapirg.org/jobs.
The MCC PIRG chapter meets every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Kirk Student Center.