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Political Science major committed to career in serving NWI communities

Sophomore Collin Czilli’s IU Northwest education is giving him the skills, confidence to pursue his dreams

Wednesday Feb 11, 2015

Sophomore Collin Czilli’s passion for serving Northwest Indiana communities and choice of attending Indiana University Northwest are closely tied. Having been involved in a variety of community service organizations as a high school student, he chose IU Northwest for the opportunity to continue his involvement close to home. Almost two years into his college career, the political science major expresses his gratitude for a high-quality education that will help him pursue a career in serving Northwest Indiana communities.

Being only 20 years old, Czilli can only draw on his high school days when reflecting on the experiences that have led him to his present opportunities and career aspirations. Still, he has quite a lot to talk about.

Czilli excelled as a student journalist at Portage High School. He never imagined his initial interest in journalism would eventually morph into a love for local politics.

When others covering the school board and city council meetings were falling asleep in their chairs, Czilli was riveted. In fact, he jumped at those assignments that required him to watch local politics in action.

“People don’t see how important the decisions made by the county council or the school boards really are,” Czilli said. “People don’t see it because it gets drowned out by everything else happening on the state level, or the national level, or in Chicago, but it’s important because these are the things that affect people the most.”

It was through all the connections he made with sources while covering events in high school that took Czilli’s original career path in an alternative direction. 

“I started making contacts that put me in touch with people within positions in the city,” Czilli said. “It’s a unique connection that most people don’t get to see.”

While he admits his initial interest in politics really began with the television show, “The West Wing,” Czilli’s foray into politics really gained momentum in 2012 when he volunteered to work on the campaign of one of his former teachers who ran for the state senate.

Czilli polished off his high school journalism career as a Student Journalist of the Year finalist for the Indiana High School Press Association, and with a Promise of the Future Award from the One Region Quality of Life Council, and then enrolled at IU Northwest with the intention of staying involved in his community and pursuing a degree in political science.

His high school internship working on a political campaign got him thinking about getting into politics himself. In December of 2014, Czilli declared his candidacy as a district representative for the Portage City Council. If he wins the election, it’s likely Czilli would be the youngest-ever Portage City Council member.

Czilli says his IU Northwest education has been instrumental in giving him the skills and confidence to pursue his ideals and serve as an agent of change. In particular, he appreciates the benefits of being part of a small group of students and instructed by a renowned faculty.

“It makes it so much nicer when you can sit in a class and you can have a dialogue between students and professors,” he said. “Being in a program that is small, it makes it easier to get to know your professors and succeed at IU Northwest.”

Using his recently declared candidacy as an example, Czilli advises other students to face their fears head-on instead of being hesitant to try something that matters to them.

“If you are afraid of doing it, you should just jump into it,” he advised, “because once you make that initial jump into whatever you want to do, it gets easier. I wrestled over whether or not to run for a good three months.”

Another experience that really helped solidify his political aspirations was the opportunity to serve as a page for the U.S. House of Representatives while in high school. While working on the floor, he said he witnessed things getting done cooperatively in a way that most people don’t get to see. Sadly, he was among the last students to be able to take advantage of the 200-year old program that was recently eliminated.

“(Political involvement) is an instrument of good. It can do good things,” Czilli contends. “Sometimes people will disagree … but most of the time, Republicans and Democrats will work together to get things done, especially at the local level. When there are seven of you on a city council together, you have to work together.”

A lifelong Portage resident, Czilli intends to make local politics his career. Even if he loses his first election, it won’t change his level of involvement with his community, as he will still maintain his positions with the Portage Economic Development Commission, and the Portage Township YMCA Board of Directors.

“I absolutely love coming to this campus and I think I definitely made the right choice in staying home,” Czilli said. “Plus it’s allowed me to stay involved in my community. I am able to be involved in these community organizations where if I had gone to IU Bloomington or IUPUI, I never would have had those opportunities to stay involved here. I would have had come back four years later and re-integrate myself in the community.”

In addition to attending IU Northwest full-time, Czilli also works part-time at Meijer and serves as the supplemental instructor for Professor Marie Eisenstein’s Introduction to American Politics course. After graduating, he intends to pursue a master’s degree in Public Administration.

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