2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Student Profile: Patrick Sprinkle, a Political Player

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Political Player

Patrick Sprinkle

Patrick Sprinkle might not be the first Teachers College student to start a political action committee, but it’s a safe bet that he’s the first to establish one designed to bolster the fortunes of northeast Ohio, a region hit hard by the downturn in the economy.
Sprinkle knows a thing or two about northeast Ohio—he grew up in Elyria, just outside Cleveland. “You hear about the job loss affecting the entire country these days, but it’s been affecting northeast Ohio since the 70s,” said Sprinkle, who launched the PAC, known as Believe in Ohio, in December with two high school friends. “It’s frustrating. When people hear we’re from the Cleveland area they say, ‘You got out. Congratulations. Stay away.’ That mindset should be challenged. We want to tell people, ‘Stay in northeast Ohio, or leave, acquire a skill set and come back and make a difference.’ That’s what we’re trying to do.”
 
Getting back to Ohio is on Sprinkle’s agenda, but it won’t happen right away. A master’s degree student in TC’s Teaching of Social Studies Program, Sprinkle will teach in the New York City public schools for at least five years—fulfilling his commitment of the Petrie Fellowship Program. He is currently student teaching at the High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan. “Teaching in the New York City schools has been great, because I’m getting to work with students from all backgrounds. I’m looking forward to the next five years.”
 
Living in New York City, however, hasn’t deterred Sprinkle from advocating for a region that he believes needs as much support—especially among young people—as it can get. The PAC is focused on five core issues: equal funding for education, green collar jobs, infrastructure improvements, affordable health care, and fair and competitive elections.
 
Thus far, Sprinkle and his friends have launched a Web site for the PAC (http://believeinohio.org), replete with a rallying cry (“We need to make our leaders set aside petty politics and get to work fixing Ohio’s problems”) and an online donation form—not to mention a blog.
 
Northeast Ohio is not a center of power,” Sprinkle said. “So you have to play the game, you have to raise money, you have to create awareness, you have to build that grassroots following. People have contacted us saying they’re interested, and others have told us they’re motivated—that just energizes us that much more. I could stay in New York and let things get worse, or I can try to make a difference.”
 
And at TC, Sprinkle hasn’t stayed too far from the political process. In September, he started working at TC’s newly established Office of Government Relations (www.tc.edu/govrelations), which serves as liaison between Teachers College and federal, state and local governments. “I was looking for someone really attuned to the political process, and Patrick certainly is that,” said Matt Camp, director of the Office of Government Relations. “So it was helpful to work with someone like Patrick during an election cycle.”
 
And even with a full course load, student teaching, a PAC to manage and working in the Office of Government Relations, Sprinkle found time in January to dash off a letter to USA Today advocating for the return of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to help young people with no college degrees and fewer job prospects. The paper printed the letter in its January 28 edition and, fittingly, credited it to “Patrick D. Sprinkle, Cleveland.”
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