Sept. 2 2009 12:00 AM

In college, students learn about the issues that shape our state, nation and world. As a student preparing to shift gears into a knowledgeable and informed member of society, it’s important to be active.

Being active means joining a cause — it doesn’t necessarily have to represent or define you, but offer a way for you to get out in the community, express a belief and take a stand. In the state capital, activists groups are plentiful; it’s all a matter of finding one that you enjoy and one to which you are willing to dedicate time.

Human Dignity Groups

Michigan People’s Action (Homelessness activist group) (106 Lathrop St. shared with the Northstar Center)

Lansing’s homeless population is about 900, but Mike Evans, MPA’s director, estimates the real count to be somewhere near 2,000. Michigan People’s Action is dedicated to ensuring quality and affordable housing and equal rights for Lansing’s homeless. The group works with current and former homeless individuals (with the help of volunteers) to help tackle the major issues this population faces. While there, check out the Northstar Center, located in the same building, which is an organization committed to social justice.

Organizations such as LCC’s Gay-Straight Alliance and the Lansing Association for Human Rights (to get involved, e-mail LAHR@ seek human dignity for all groups, with special concern for the LGBT community. LAHR, which hosts events throughout the year, focuses on the needs of the LGBT community in an effort to unify people of all races, genders and sexualities and is always accepting interested volunteers.

Activists for peace

In Lansing, there are several organizations dedicated to advocating peace. The Michigan Peace Team (1516 Jerome St.), which began in 1993, was created to provide a community of peacemakers for both the U.S. and the world. “The Michigan Peace team sends peace teams to put off violence or potential violence … in domestic and international areas, and educate (people) with skills on peacemaking,” said Liz Walters, the group’s educational coordinator. Organizations such as the Greater Lansing Network Against War and Injustice, which actively protested the Iraq war from the beginning, aims to end the policies that it believes lead to the war. Those who seek more education on peaceful methods of activism should contact the Peace Education Center (855 Grove St., East Lansing). The Peace Education Center is dedicated to be a resource to its community by providing information on organizing, creating peace networks and also by providing education programming and services to groups and individuals in Lansing.

Environmental activist groups

As a Great Lakes state, it’s important to be environmentally conscious. Students looking to do their part in the environmental movement have such options as Michigan Clean Water Action (1200 Michigan Ave., East Lansing), a local chapter of a national organization that aims to protect water by narrowing down the sources of pollution for lakes, rivers and streams and educating citizens on the importance of clean water. ”We are a national nonprofit organization that works with issues that directly affect the public health,” said Jessy Edwards, a member of the group.

The Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club (109 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing) is working to safeguard wild places (including Michigan nature reserves) and stop our the rush to build more coal-fired power plants in the state. Students looking to protest environmental issues on campus can join MSU’s Holmes’ Environmental Awareness Team, a student life group on campus.

General Activist groups

Lansing Community College and Michigan State University both offer general positivism activism. Groups such as LCC’s People for Positive Change and MSU’s Students for Inflicting Change provide a method of pushing for a positive future. MSU also offers a student group on fair trade, Students for Fair Trade, and, if you’re an animal lover, Students Promoting Animal Rights.

Activist groups are numerous in Lansing, get out and join a cause!