a passion for activism

by Chris E., 16

As I was interviewing Kate Triggiano, one sentence continued to circulate through my brain over and over again: Kate Triggiano was put on this planet to inspire others. 

Within the first few minutes of the interview, I could immediately tell that Kate wanted to leave her mark on the Red Bank community. Her enthusiasm for her work as councilwoman and chair of the Red Bank Environmental Commission showed me the importance of getting involved within my community and how vital it is to make connections wherever I go. 

Just as we all are at one point in our lives, Kate was once just someone who wanted to take action within her local community. Kate told me she has always been someone who wanted to voice her opinions. Her first actions within the community were environmentally based through the Environmental Commission.

Kate had some questions about a park close to her home that was being considered and planned. Kate learned from one of her sources that the project needed more consideration and care in order to flourish within the environment. She wanted to make sure environmental considerations were implemented into the plans for the park because this park would be close to the water and impact the environment around her. 

This led her to the Environmental Commission of Red Bank and her first council meeting.

During the council meeting, Kate asked some questions about the park itself and whether it was going to obtain enough money to be successfully organized and developed. The meeting was not perfect, and from this first council meeting, Kate realized that she had a lot to learn about being active within her community. However, as a result of her enthusiasm and passion for making a difference, Kate was asked to join the commission. 

Little did she know, joining the Environmental Commission would be a life-changing experience for her.

As Kate continues to do work within her community, she connects her local efforts to national and global issues. Within the local Red Bank community, Kate helps spread awareness of what is going on politically and socially in our country. In 2016, she organized her first march in Asbury Park for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. Bernie Sanders has had a huge influence on Kate’s activism as Sanders always spoke about and believed in getting involved within the community and making a difference, according to Kate. This march inspired Kate to make connections with new friends and coworkers, and her spark for activism didn’t extinguish there. 

As Kate became increasingly involved within the Environmental Commission, she was introduced to more people and more organizations within the community. Her activism spread to new places as she organized an environmental justice march and an emergency unity rally after the events in Charlottesville where hundreds of people showed up to support the cause.

Kate’s connections with the Environmental Commission provided her with many opportunities to continue making her community a better place. For example, as the outreach director for Bus For Progress, a nonprofit organization that drives people to and from marches, Kate helps coordinate events in Red Bank to make a difference. Kate was then appointed to the Red Bank Zoning Board and eventually became the chair of the Environmental Commission itself.

What struck Kate the most as she became more and more active was the fact that people started coming to her for help and guidance about voicing their own opinions and starting marches for causes that they cared about. Kate told me then she learned that “there was something so much more to what I was doing.” Kate was awestruck but honored as other community members turned to her for guidance. Her passion for positive change in her community was contagious. 

She explained that this realization was a “turning point” for her as an activist. It was at this moment when Kate decided she was going to run for office.

Kate explained to me the process of running for the council in Red Bank. She first entered the contested convention to try to become a Democratic candidate for the office, which was successful as she gained the Democratic nomination in 2018. Kate then campaigned for office and won later in the year. Now in 2020, she continues to be extremely active within Red Bank as councilwoman of the town. 

Through her determination and motivation to help our local community, Kate continues to make more and more of a difference in Red Bank as councilwoman in addition to all the work she has done with the Environmental Commission, Bus for Progress, and Zoning Board. As Councilwoman, Kate has newfound opportunities to help make Red Bank a better place and can strive to be an important leader and role model for the future of this town.  

As councilwoman, Kate is a very passionate advocate for Medicare for All. During the start of her term in office, Kate explains that she was initially the only one who was willing to discuss Medicare for All. She believes, “When you know something is right, you just got to go for it.”  

Kate told me that just having the council’s vote doesn’t mean Medicare for All in Red Bank, but having the petition supported is “way beyond symbolic because a trend can start.” Kate explained to me that trends can be set ablaze through similar opinions and conditions within different communities. Kate says that if Red Bank voted in favor of Medicare for All, “so could other towns and eventually [the resolution] can go to the state level.”

Kate kept pushing for a petition in Red Bank and as the pandemic grew closer, her fellow council members started shifting in favor of Medicare for All. “The whole council was suddenly supportive and we just passed the first Medicare for All resolution in the state.” Kate stressed how vital it is to observe the progress within a movement so that you can “strike” at the right time.  

I was very curious about how Kate spreads her ideas as an activist; she demonstrated that in order to be a successful activist it is vital to “break things down” step-by-step to stay organized and ahead of how an idea or movement is progressing within the community. When spreading awareness for a certain cause or movement, Kate’s first steps are education and outreach. Kate truly believes in the importance of educating the public about the movement itself and then spreading the message across the area whether that be in the form of writing, marching, or speaking.  

Kate also explained to me the importance of educating the people who are fighting for the movement so they can fully understand the message being spread. Working as a team for the same cause is vital for spreading awareness efficiently and effectively. Kate articulated that “the people need to understand why you care about something.” 

Kate went on to say that it is also important to understand the timing of things in order to get a trend going, or, in other words: it is critical to know when plans are advancing. Once progress is observed and a trend or movement is heading in the right direction, stage two can be put into action: implementation. 

Implementation involves working with people and working toward a common goal. Kate explained that goals can be reached in different ways, and it takes many people to be successful at spreading awareness. This stage involves people in different worlds. For example, having someone politically influential who can talk to a large crowd is vital to spreading a message while the tech guy who can spread a message virtually through social media and create digital awareness is crucial for a given cause. 

I have learned that it takes determination and a lot of effort to fight for something you believe in, as Kate showed me, and I wondered if I have what it takes to continue to fight for a singular cause over and over again until I am successful. What Kate was trying to tell me is that even though there is an “I” in activism, we aren’t in this alone. There are others around me who will support and lift me up. Making a difference requires unity, inspiration, and time. Patience is a virtue, right? Well, so is determination. Working hard for your goals isn’t something that is easy, but it’s not impossible. 

Kate Triggiano showed me that being active within the community is inside all of us; all we have to do is be inspired to make a difference, big or small. 

Middletown, New Jersey