As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and reflect upon the many blessings for which we should be grateful, we would do well to focus on what we take for granted that others less fortunate are unable to have.

It has been heartening to see recent opportunities for student civic engagement. This month’s mayoral election and Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week provided valuable moments for civic participation, and for members of the Duke community to become involved in confronting issues that have implications far beyond the university bubble. It was a welcoming sign that campus groups raised awareness about problems of hunger and homelessness in surrounding communities. Such conversations are overdue, given the fact that many of us daily take a roof over our head and food on the table for granted.

The election of Sanford Professor Steve Schewel as the next mayor of Durham illustrates the impact that Duke can have on the local community. Yet, the mayoral election also shows that Duke can improve, particularly by encouraging students to participate in local elections. There was little buzz about these elections and they were not even mentioned in the weekly emails from administrators. While The Chronicle published a helpful guide on the candidates and polling logistics, finding the time to vote between classes and other school obligations was challenging for many.

Diminished interest in local races is hardly surprising, especially in the absence of horse race polls and pundits’ analyses of candidates’ every action that are hallmarks of presidential and other federal elections. Still, local elections matter—and often can have the greatest impact on everyday life. Yet according to The Chronicle, Duke did not make the list for the top 20 North Carolina schools with the highest voter turnout in the 2016 election. There are several explanations for this discrepancy, such as the fact that early voting was on Central Campus—possibly inconvenient for students on East and West—and a high percentage of Duke students are residents of other states.

Still, the university and student body should consider ways to increase student voter turnout. Over the last couple years, Duke Student Government’s Durham & Regional Affairs Committee has worked to implement Turbo Vote, a software system that enables students to register to vote in North Carolina. This was an important step and was critical in registering students last fall. Yet this is only a start and there are further actions the school can take if it is serious about ensuring that students are responsible citizens who use their knowledge to better serve communities.

Last year, as a senator for DSG’s Durham & Regional Affairs Committee, I proposed to make Election Day a day of service to enable students to have all or part of the day off from classes. In lieu of classes, students could participate in workshops hosted by professors and student groups that would focus on topics related to political events, hot-button policy issues, and civic engagement. Additionally, the day could include off-campus service work, such as taking voters to the polls or volunteering at a school or soup kitchen. The purpose would not simply be to ensure high voter turnout, but rather to celebrate civic responsibility, the notion that as residents of this community—and even as students of this university—we have obligations not only simply to each other, but also to those in our surrounding communities.

This idea is not as radical as it may seem. Peer universities, such as Columbia, close on Election Day, as do several state universities. The nonpartisan group Why Tuesday, founded by Ambassador Andrew Young, Senator Bill Bradley, and Congressman Jack Kemp, seeks to raise awareness about problems with America’s voting system, such as low turnout and long lines at polling places. One of their key proposed reforms is for Election Day to be a federal holiday. According to the group’s website, “the primary reason Americans don’t vote is that it’s inconvenient to do so. Between work, family responsibilities, and commuting traffic, it’s no wonder turnout is so low—and then those that do go vote before work, after work, or at lunch have to deal with long lines.”

In conversations with administrators, I have found that there are two main obstacles to an Election Day of Service. First, missing a day of school is difficult for scheduling, particularly when classes meet only once or twice a week. Yet simply adding a school day by removing one from the reading period could fix this problem. Second, there are concerns that student interest might not be sufficient to merit such a day. While a more valid concern than the first one, there is little evidence for such a claim. And if there were, then that would be all the more reason to have a day dedicated to promoting civic responsibility and voter participation.

Encouraging civic education and student political participation is particularly critical in North Carolina, which has a history of voter suppression. National efforts to roll back hard-fought gains in voting rights, as well as low voter turnout in the U.S. compared to other countries further highlight the importance of promoting civic participation. As students, we will have to face the consequences of policies at the federal, state, and local levels. If we are truly concerned about issues such as raising wages, ensuring access to affordable health care, and improving educational opportunities, then we all must participate in the political process.

As a school that prides itself on using knowledge to serve society, it is incumbent upon students and administrators to promote ways to ensure greater student civic engagement through voting and other opportunities for local service.

Max Labaton is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs on alternate Tuesdays.