Christina Thompson found her life’s calling at ten years old. In 2010, when Thompson was just a young girl, she lost her beloved cousin, Heather, to Cystic Fibrosis. Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic, progressive, chronic disease that typically impacts the lungs and digestive tract. While there have been many advancements in CF research and treatment plans, Cystic Fibrosis is still without a cure.
Thompson, along with her family, created “Heather’s Army.” “Heather’s Army” focuses their efforts on hosting memorial walks to raise funds and awareness for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. What started out as a family activity, sooned turned into a personal calling for Christina. “I wanted to be the voice for my cousin. She can’t be heard, but I can,” she reflected.
At sixteen, Thompson headed to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress to speak on behalf of the Cystic Fibrosis community, as well as for the broader group of individuals living with pre-existing conditions. Her experience on Capitol Hill was transformative. Thompson knew that she was meant to come back and continue her work as an advocate for comprehensive healthcare, but first, she wanted to earn her degree.
By the time she was a senior at Hannibal High School near Oswego, NY, Christina had determined that she wanted to go to a community college to earn her degree affordably, but that she also wanted to have the residential life experience. At just under two hours away from her home, SUNY Broome was the perfect fit.
Knowing that she wanted to eventually become a congressional staffer or lobbyist, Thompson came to SUNY Broome hoping to learn as much as she could about the American political systems and tiers of government. As a Liberal Arts: Individual Studies student, Thompson was able to tailor her program to have a concentration in Political Science. While she enjoyed all of her classes, she particularly sought out courses taught by Professor Carla M. Michalak.
“I tried to take all of her classes. I just love the way that she teaches and the way that she encourages us to participate in civic engagement. When I couldn’t take one of her classes during the spring semester, I emailed her and asked her to remember me for the following fall. She did! She knew that I had a desire to work in political advocacy and she really wanted to help me develop my skills,” Thompson said.
When President Dr. Kevin Drumm reached out to his faculty and staff for guidance on who to nominate to represent SUNY Broome as the Newman Civic Fellow for 2021-2022, Professor Michalak was quick to suggest Christina Thompson. As the recipient of the Newman Civic Fellowship, Thompson will join over two hundred other college students from across the country and Mexico to connect, develop leadership skills, and continue their civic engagement efforts on local, national, and global levels. “I have my first virtual orientation in April and I am so excited. I have already met lots of other students through pre-orientation groups and am really looking forward to learning about the scholarship opportunities and for the conference in Boston next spring,” she said.
While Thompson genuinely loved her experiences at SUNY Broome thus far, she, like millions of other college students, had to adapt to college life amidst a global pandemic.
“I just knew that I had to keep myself busy to ward off feelings of isolation and depression. I was initially very disappointed that my job as the student manager of the basketball team did not get to happen due to a canceled season, but that new opening in my schedule allowed me to get involved in SUNY Broome’s Student Assembly, which I absolutely love,” she reflected.
Thompson is set to graduate from SUNY Broome this May and plans to transfer to SUNY Oswego to continue her studies in Political Science. She encourages all current and future SUNY Broome students to follow this advice. “If you are enjoying a class, reach out to your professor. He or she might have some great opportunities or connections to pass along to a student that is interested in learning more.”