By Morgan Folger

In four years as a student at the University of Maryland, I have made decisions about what to major in, which classes to take and who to live with. But the best decision I ever made was joining MaryPIRG.

MaryPIRG is a student-led and student-funded nonpartisan advocacy organization working to make real change on issues such as protecting the environment, promoting democracy, alleviating hunger and homelessness and making college affordable.

At the beginning of my sophomore year, I added my second major in environmental science and policy with big dreams of stopping climate change. Despite my ambition, I didn’t feel as though I was actually making a difference. But that changed when I joined MaryPIRG. Within weeks I went to a rally in Washington, helped plan a stream cleanup and learned how to lead people to take action on urgent issues. Suddenly, I had become an activist.

Throughout the past few years in MaryPIRG, I have had the opportunity to work with experienced advocates, organizers and other professionals who enabled me to combine my fiery student activism with professional organizing experience.

Without this training, our campaign coordinators could not effectively organize news conferences, lobby state and federal legislators or execute massive grassroots efforts. Students are able to make large-scale change because of our ability to hire staff to help us win on the issues that we care about.

The most exciting part: We students win. In 2012, we stopped the doubling of student-loan interest rates, saving more than 7 million students an additional $1,000 in student loan debt. In the 2014 midterm elections, we increased voter turnout at this university by 25 percent — the highest on the campus in 12 years. In 2015, we helped convince Sen. Ben Cardin to support the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Water Rule,” which would protect 2 million miles of streams and 20 million miles of wetlands. And last year, we helped convince McDonald’s and Subway to announce plans to stop serving meats raised on routine antibiotics, which will help curb the creation of deadly antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

But we need your help to keep getting results. Every two years, we put a referendum question on the Student Government Association ballot that asks students to reaffirm their support for the funding of MaryPIRG’s staff through a small portion of the Student Activities Fee. Less than 2 percent of the total fee collected allows us to keep fighting for issues students care about.

So help us win again. Vote YES for MaryPIRG online in the SGA elections on April 20-22.

Morgan Folger is a senior English and environmental sciences major. She can be reached at