Community is the one thing that binds us all together. The Common Project seeks to inspire, promote, and sustain community. 

We discover unique stories of diverse people engaging in activities that promote the common good. 

 

About Jacob Miller

I would not be where I am today without civic engagement, mentorship, and the social capital that comes with each. This project is a personal and community journey.

My interest in civic engagement began when I decided my fourth grade class needed changes, so I created a student council and was subsequently elected to be the president of my fourth grade class. My concerns may seem trivial now, but I was dedicated to getting more milk options at lunch and better field trips.

Our student council was successful in advocating for these changes. That same year the 2004 tsunami struck in the Indian Ocean and I decided to use my newly- developed organizing skills to mobilize my classmates in our own “Wave of Hope” campaign.

That year I led a team of dozens of students to raise thousands of dollars. We made speeches, knocked on doors, and mobilized our community. Looking back on the experience, I realize I was experimenting with democracy fueled by a drive to create change. 

In 2011 when, in the tenth grade, I met and was wholeheartedly inspired by, State Sen. Mark C. Montigny. My formal internship lasted nearly three years in which the high point was 2013 and the successful passage of legislation to create economic opportunity for other college students in Massachusetts. 

In late June of 2013, I spotted on the next day’s legislative agenda that a bill to align Massachusetts's health care system with the Affordable Care Act appeared; I saw a policy window open. I called the senator’s lawyers on Beacon Hill and told them this was a ideal opportunity for attaching an amendment, not yet written, to the bill.

My idea for an amendment would allow students to stay on MassHealth, a free or low cost health insurance provided by the state to low-income residents. Prior to the new law, college students were dropped from their state-funded plan and forced to pay for university health insurance out of pocket. The senator’s lawyers were sold on the idea and said that they would draft the amendment, but that it would be up to me to persuade the senator that it should be included. 

The next day I drove the senator to the legislative session, and used the entire trip to convince him of the amendment’s merit. I succeeded. 

Once we arrived at the State House, I worked with the senator for a solid hour to lobby his colleagues. We succeeded. The amendment passed and Governor Deval Patrick signed the bill into law weeks later. 

Seeing that amendment pass was one of my proudest moments, but numerous formative experiences prepared me for it. I was raised and continue to live on the SouthCoast region of Massachusetts. It is home, and I love it, but it has its problems, and needs some help. 

The SouthCoast region sits between Providence, RI and Cape Cod and is known for its depressed urban centers of Fall River and New Bedford, lack of educational attainment, and poor economic outlook. 

My enrollment at UMass Dartmouth, the only university on the SouthCoast of Massachusetts, affords me the opportunity to serve as an elected member on the UMass Board of Trustees, work on service-learning curriculum, small business creation, workforce development programs, youth civic engagement, voter registration, and most recently train to complete a 75 mile charity bike ride across the Buzzards Bay watershed. I’ve used my energy to push change. 

Each opportunity has increased my attachment to the SouthCoast and my commitment to making it better in any way possible. 

Now my eyes are set on helping you make your community better. In these pages you will find stories, best practices, and insights to equip you for your journey.  

–Jacob Miller