The Cause: Student Government Proponent Nick Ciarlante

Colby-Sawyer student body President Nick Ciarlante takes a chair in Alumni Lounge, where student government often meets. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Colby-Sawyer student body President Nick Ciarlante takes a chair in Alumni Lounge, where student government often meets. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

The Man: Nick Ciarlante, 21, of Stoneham, Mass., a junior at Colby-Sawyer College.

The Cause: Working for change through student government and through local and national politics, supporting the Republican Party.

The Means: Ciarlante has taken an active role in student government in both his high school and now as student body president at Colby-Sawyer. Ciarlante is also currently volunteering for U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass’ re-election campaign.

The Impetus: Ciarlante grew up learning about politics and government from his father, who transmitted to him his passion for politics. In high school in Stoneham, Ciarlante was class president for three years and immediately became involved in student government as a freshman at Colby-Sawyer. Now, as a junior in his second year as student body president, Ciarlante is expanding his political activity from school to electoral politics.

I think I’ve always had an interest in politics. While politics don’t run in the family — not my dad’s profession — he’s a very political person, and he follows the presidential races closely. As a child, we would sit down and watch political events (on television together), such as the presidential inaugurations, and he would be telling me stuff about what was going on, and I’d ask questions, and then bring what I learned to high school.

The one thing I couldn’t wait to do when I was 18 was to register to vote. I ran down to town hall on my birthday to register, and I actually registered as an independent. At the time, (I was) living in liberal Massachusetts and not sure if I wanted to register as a Republican and be an “outcast,” or to go with the crowd. Even though I’m still a registered independent, I do tend to vote with the Republican side on many issues. Massachusetts is a very liberal state, and Scott Brown has said he is the independent in Congress, so I kind of like Scott Brown’s philosophies, in that you can be Republican but still have some liberal views. Being a Republican in a liberal area, the key is to be open-minded. You have to listen to the other side, listen to what they are saying, and bring both sides together to make things happen. Whether a Republican or a Democrat, they still have to listen to what the other party is saying and merge ideas. ‘Cause that’s the only way things will get accomplished.

One of my aspirations is to help those in need and to make an impact. At my high school in Stoneham, there were 200 kids I could impact. Here at Colby-Sawyer, I have a (potential) impact of 1,400. It’s helping others, and being able to influence, and being a role model. Some of those people look to you for being able to make decisions and someone they can trust.

For student government, some of the work that we’ve done (is to act) as the voice of the students. Last year, we had a charge from the trustees to make Colby-Sawyer a smoke-free campus. That was a very challenging spot for me, I felt. I had a group of students in the student body who did not support the (change). So I had to present this to the trustees, but at the same time, I had the trustees pressuring me, because they wanted a smoke-free campus. We had an outreach to the students, and they showed their 100 percent support for the smokers. In the end, I said to the trustees, we have to listen to the students. The students have elected me to represent their voice.

At times, I’ve wanted to be a businessman, to work for a Fortune 500 company, but having these different experiences with student government, and getting out into the community to work with different cohorts of people has made me want to work in politics.

Photograph and interview by Sarah Priestap

Published in print on October 21, 2012.


Committed for the Long Haul

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Like most photojournalists, I fairly often encounter activists of various kinds in my work. Whether they are picketing, petitioning or persuading, they are almost always passionate about their cause and eager to talk about it. So when I was asked to consider producing a biweekly photo feature for the Perspectives section this past year, I thought that focusing on activists, …