The following guest post is by JP Gooderham, a Tulane University student who worked with the Gulf Restoration Network this fall through the GRN’s service-learning partnership with Professor Gary Brooks’s “Grassroots Politics” course. Service-learning at Tulane gives students the opportunity to get hands-on experience with the concepts they learn about in class. This fall, Tulane service learners working with the Gulf Restoration Network conducted community outreach and environmental education, organized outreach movie screenings, helped set up a major GRN display at the VOODOO Music Experience, and signed up more than 3,500 new E-Activists to engage in the Fight for a Healthy Gulf! Enjoy reading JP’s thoughts on his service this fall, and we’ll be posting reflections from more students in the coming weeks.From JP:In order to meet Tulane’s mandated service learning requirement, I enrolled this fall in a course that centered on grassroots politics and activism. Though I did not know it initially, the class would be given the opportunity to partner with the Gulf Restoration Network for the purpose of environmental advocacy.Before coming back to school, I became a fan of the GRN on Facebook and had some familiarity with their work. However, I never had participated in any form of environmental activism beyond conversing with friends and family members before this opportunity. Over the course of the semester, I certainly have been exposed to a wide variety of elements in the world of grassroots activism. While our course material provided a firm understanding of the theory behind political movements and even allowed us to focus on specific examples of these efforts, my work with the GRN helped me to see this process in practice, as applied by one specific organization with a clear objective in mind.My activities ranged from entering information into GRN’s database of e-activists to calling the executive officers of Home Depot and Lowe’s to getting in touch with my representatives in Congress about the need to pass legislation for the protection of the Gulf. I especially enjoyed communicating with decision makers about the needs of the Gulf (though this was limited to speaking with their assistants). That said, I enjoyed, above all, attending a market in New Orleans and asking bypassers to sign our postcards.On one hand, participating in the petition campaign requires one to deal with frequent failure. There were certainly a lot of New Orleans residents who had no interest in discussing the effort (and a few even reacted with genuine hostility at the mention of Obama’s name). As a student, this was certainly educational, as it illustrated the challenges that organizers must overcome when attempting to build a solid support base to attract the attention of lawmakers. On the other hand, I encountered many people whose lives were profoundly effected by the BP oil spill. These individuals shared their stories. Businesses were failing. Homes were losing value. Lives were being impacted. When speaking directly with residents of the Gulf Coast, it is easy to overcome the disappointment when a potential signature ignores your greeting or walks away when they spot someone holding a clipboard.In reflection, my experience working with the Gulf Restoration Network, in my mind, has reaffirmed the value of grassroots activism. The fact that thousands of e-activists have been added to GRN’s force merely through engaging ordinary people in conversation speaks volumes about the potential for all organizing projects. GRN is living proof that it is tremendously realistic for an organization to engage citizens and force the government to listen to the needs of the people (through hard work and effective planning). In hindsight, I am extremely pleased that I had the opportunity to volunteer for the GRN, and I am certain that this experience has substantially expanded my understanding of political activity and social activism.