Nov 30, 2016
Q&A With Alum Carl Amritt
Spotlight Date:November 30, 2016
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Carl Amritt is a young alumnus of Dreyfoos, only having graduated in 2013, but his dedication to public service has been evident since he was a Digital Media student here. As a high school student, he was a Special Projects Intern for the City of West Palm Beach, working under mayor Jeri Muoio in a workforce development program. This past election cycle, he worked as the Deputy Regional Field Director, campaigning for Democratic Party Nominee, Hillary Clinton. Now attending school at American University to complete a Master’s in Public Administration, we spoke with him about his time at Dreyfoos, his work in politics, and how Digital Media still plays a role in his day to day.
Q: Favorite Dreyfoos teachers?
In no particular order— Valerie Bauer, Melissa Glosmanová, Lacey Van Reeth, Peter Stodolak, Ancil Deluz, and the late Lea Jefferson.
Q: College(s) attended (attending)?
Bard College – Fall 2013 to Fall 2015
Palm Beach State College – Spring/Summer 2016
American University – Spring 2016
Bachelor in Political Science and Economics, Masters in Public Administration
Q: What is the most profound change you experienced at Dreyfoos?
A: Dreyfoos changed the way that I thought about schoolwork. When immersed in an environment where everyone is equally as passionate about their craft, you realize the importance of hard work and tenacity. Along with the artist critiques and juries, you go through every semester, you are constantly being evaluated and encouraged to try new things and push yourself.
Q: Is there something Dreyfoos could have provided that could have better prepared you for college?
A: Dreyfoos could have prepared me better for handling the many responsibilities that come along with adulthood and the intricacies of finance. I was very fortunate to have fantastic teachers like Norman Adams who taught a Financial Applications course that was incredibly helpful in understanding investments, loans, and interest rates. And yet, it still did not feel like enough when you begin to take on bills for yourself as a young adult. This is certainly something all schools, not only Dreyfoos, can do better to prepare their students for college and the real world.
Q: Tell us a little bit about the work you did as a Field Organizer?
A: This past election I worked as a field organizer for the largest canvassing operation of any independent expenditure campaign in Florida’s history. United We Can is a grassroots organizations funded by SEIU (Service Employees International Union) that advocated for issues important to working families such as a $15 minimum wage increase, commonsense immigration reform, and debt-free college. My office oversaw the canvassing efforts in the largest region in the state, encompassing Palm Beach County and northern Broward County. As the Deputy Regional Field Director, I supervised the staffing, scheduling, and training of a team of 100 canvassers out in the community encouraging voters to get out and vote. This was an incredible experience having been able to speak with voters in my community and make history campaigning for the first woman nominee of a major party, Hillary Clinton.
Q: You worked as a Special Projects Intern for the City of West Palm Beach, what did that entail?
A: Working directly under the Mayor Jeri Muoio, the first project I was tasked with was the development of the Mayor’s Village Initiative, Workforce Development program which sought to train and connect city residents to career opportunities. In order to accomplish this, we relied on the assistance of local businesses and community partners like the Palm Beach County Urban league and CareerSource Palm Beach County to help residents navigate the job market and overcome hurdles associated with employment. We were able to successfully get over fifty residents on track to employment and over ten on a GED-track program through Palm Beach State College. The other project I had a hand in developing dates back to my time at Dreyfoos when the Mayor appointed me to the City’s Education Advisory Committee in 2011. At the time, the city was exploring new directions to improve education and performance of its lowest performing schools. One way was through the creation of the Mayor’s Partnership Network with Northmore Elementary School that brought together the city, private businesses, and the School Board. I played a pivotal role in brokering a plan that would provide over $30,000 valued in private and public dollars to increase student literacy, create an early childhood program, revamp their afterschool program, and provide professional development for instructors.
Q: Tell us about your fellowship with Roosevelt Institute. How were you selected? What did you work on during your time there?
A: This past summer, I completed an Emerging Fellowship at the Roosevelt Institute to conduct research on the impacts of voter disenfranchisement of Americans with past felony convictions. Prior to Roosevelt, I had worked to register ex-offenders to vote in New York State where they are prohibited from voting until successfully completing the terms of their sentence and parole. My fellowship brought me to my home state of Florida which is one of the few states in the country with a lifetime ban on voting upon conviction of a felony, and the state with the highest concentration of ex-offenders residing within its borders; more than 1.6 million Floridians are unable to vote. With the support from the Roosevelt Institute, I began working with the statewide coalition, Floridians for a Fair Democracy, to propose a ballot amendment to Florida’s constitution. Due to partisanship in the legislature that has stalled all attempts to pass a comprehensive bill to restore the voting rights to millions of Floridians, the ballot initiative is a citizen-driven campaign to make the Florida Supreme Court overturn the policy. It is through Roosevelt that I coordinated petition collection efforts across several Florida college campuses and developed a variety of organizational tools for community organizing. It was by efforts that we were able to achieve the required number of petitions to trigger a legal review of our amendment by the Florida Attorney General. We anticipate a favorable review where will be then gearing to collect more petitions to have our have our amendment included on the next General Election ballot. You can read more about the initiative and learn about how you can get involved on our website.
Q: When you graduate, what career do you hope to pursue?
A: The ideal career would allow me to have the fulfillment of giving back to my community and making a difference in the lives of others. I believe pursuing a career in law and eventually, public service would allow me to do so.
Q: How do you think your studies in Digital Media at Dreyfoos have influenced your work in politics?
A: One of my greatest strengths in my work in politics is my ability to view things not only as a community organizer but also as an artist. In my work, I constantly pay special attention details and design of my work and how people perceive it. Truthfully, I nearly use Photoshop on a daily basis. If it is not to design an infographic, it is usually to storyboard my ideas. My digital media background has provided me with a skill set and background that has made all the difference in my political work.
Q: Have you had the opportunity to work with any other Dreyfoos (SOA) alums?
A: During my time at Bard College, I worked closely with Haley Kaye, 2012 Music alumna in the sustainability program. Recently, I have been working with Mike Cairo, 2013 Communications alumnus and FAU Student Body President, on rights restoration efforts in Palm Beach County.
Q: What recommendations do you have for our current DSOA students?
A: Allow yourself time to explore the things that interest you. In the midst of our busy schedules and obligations we often forget to allow ourselves to try new things. Take a class outside of your major, sign-up for a portfolio review with a college that you had not considered applying to, or attend a club meeting just to figure what it is all about. It is only when you go out of your comfort zone that you truly grow and understand your aptitude for success, and even in some circumstances, you may come across something you did not you were passionate about.
Q: In a brief statement can you explain “What Dreyfoos means to me”?
A: Dreyfoos to me is a community where you can freely express yourself and speak your mind without the fear of judgment or ridicule. A community where your eccentricity and creativity are its defining qualities and are wholly appreciated.