Hey Ethan! Can you introduce yourself to the folks who haven’t met you yet?
Hello! I use he/him pronouns and I’ve served as the Mid-Michigan Community Organizer for the last year and a half, and am now the Interim Senior Community Organizer. Prior to joining the team, I was a Senior Admissions Counselor for the University of Michigan, focusing on recruitment of underrepresented students in the rural areas of the state, and on the side, I helped run the Michigan Resistance as the Head of Logistics, and the Washtenaw County Democratic Party as the head of the Communications Team. I was lucky enough to work on the Hillary Clinton Campaign in 2016 and was a volunteer for Planned Parenthood up until I was hired by them. I graduated from Oberlin College in 2015, and have lived in Michigan ever since.
Tell us about how your role is changing!
I couldn’t be more excited to start my new role. In addition to organizing the Lansing and Mount Pleasant areas, I will be providing leadership for the organizing team’s statewide work, and coordinating the work that the Community Organizers do together. At the moment, my role includes helping the new organizers (who you can read about in the previous posts) as they transition into their new roles.
Our new staff member Hoai An Pham will be taking over organizing in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. How are you transitioning the work there?
I was lucky enough to meet Hoai An at the Stop the Bans rally that we held in Ann Arbor with Cecile Richards. This whole rally came together in three days, while we were very short-staffed, and she came out of nowhere like a superhero to help out. None of us had met her before and quickly marveled at how calm she was with such a massive event (1200 people!), and how helpful she was. She almost single-handedly made the rally accessible to all kinds of people and was incredibly helpful with the entire rally from start to finish.
I will be slowly transitioning the work over to Hoai An by introducing her to our incredible volunteers, having her lead our community presentations, and supporting her as she plans her vision for the community moving forward. She has already made a big impact on the organization, and Ann Arbor is in great hands with her. I can’t wait to continue working with her as she develops her program!
What has been your favorite organizing moment so far?
When I was knocking doors for Angela Witwer, one experience always stick with me. The person answering the door heard my small elevator speech about why I was knocking and asked me to wait a minute while she went inside. She came out with two glasses of wine and asked me to sit on her porch with her and explain everything that was at stake in the election.
We talked for a while about what was happening at the local, state, and national level, and at the end, she informed me that she was visually impaired. She had never been able to read the informational materials dropped off by other organizations. At the end of our conversation, she asked for directions to her polling location and promised me that she would be voting.
If I’m being completely honest, knocking doors is not my favorite thing to do in the world, but this experience reminded me of how important it is to always make the effort to reach people and to always push to remove systemic barriers.
You will now be able to focus 100% of your time on organizing in the Greater Lansing area. Tell us about your vision for organizing in the community.
Lansing is the most incredible community that I have ever been a part of. It is a welcoming, diverse community full of people who are invested in the community, and who want to give back as much as they can.
The community has blessed me by including me in so much organizing work from the start. Unfortunately, Lansing remains quite segregated as a city, and many sections continue to struggle to be heard. My vision for the community is to further connect all of the different areas of Lansing so that we all work for each other, and are all included in the discussion.
We have incredible leaders in this community, especially leaders in the LGBTQ community, leaders who are people of color, and leaders in the disability activism community. My goals have always been to elevate their voices as much as I can, and I look forward to continuing to ensure that their voices are heard.
My vision for organizing in the community, more than anything else, to listen. Supporting our local leaders has been a blessing and a big reason to #LoveLansing.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not organizing?
My ideal day off always involves hiking of some kind. I’m lucky enough to live right next to a trail, and I spend a minimum of two days a week going on a long walk. I also really enjoy cooking, and will gladly obsess over any cooking show if anyone is looking for a watch buddy!
Do you have any weird hobbies or peculiar talents?
My mom is a long-time yoga teacher, so I have some fun yoga poses in my toolbox, with the biggest party trick being Mayurasana (Peacock Pose), and I discovered that I am a world-class axe thrower; come to Bull’s Eye in Lansing if you don’t believe me! I'm also a passionate Quidditch player; it is a sport!”
How can people get in touch with you?
I’m always happy to hear from our supporters! Please feel free to e-mail me at Ethan.Schmitt@ppmi.org, connect through Facebook, Instagram, or just come to the office to say hi!