Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
For a generation of technology-tethered youth in Silicon Valley, fast-paced living is the norm. But for 10 days this summer, a local young woman plans to step back in time as she commutes cross-country on refurbished train cars as part of the Millennial Trains Project.
Autumn Carter, 24, executive director of the Los Altos-based California Common Sense nonprofit advocacy organization, hopes to embark on her journey in August.
Millennial Trains Project founder Patrick Dowd approached Carter last year with his idea to convene 40 entrepreneurial and forward-thinking 18- to 34-year-olds on a traveling “innovation lab.” Carter hopped onboard, creating an online project profile and raising funds. She has collected $1,200 toward her $5,000 July 1 fundraising goal – the cost to secure her seat on the train.
“The train is constantly moving forward,” said Carter of why a train – costly and slower than many other modes of transportation – is the right space for fostering the creative endeavors of the millennial generation. “It starts in one place and actually observes the world at a slower pace where you can take it in.”
Carter views the unorthodox experiential learning experience as the ideal opportunity for cultivating her aspiration to write a book on open-source data case studies. On each of the 10 stops along the Millennial Trains Project’s inaugural itinerary between San Francisco and Washington, D.C., she plans to identify examples of how young people are using data to tackle state and local initiatives in a unique way.
“Data is the most democratizing force moving forward,” Carter said. “Civic engagement is one of the most important parts of being an informed citizen … being able to ask the right questions and to get answers.”
Although Carter envisions that the train journey could build a strong foundation for a career focused on making government data more transparent and accessible to policymakers and the public, she said the relationships she forges with colleagues on the train as well as with people she meets along the way are just as important.
“Millennials believe we can change the world,” she said, “and we think more than that that it’s our responsibility to leave it better off than we found it.”
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