WASHINGTON, PA (Nov. 8, 2016) – The United States is now at the end of the 2016 election cycle, and Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) students have been working hard right up until and through Election Day as voluntees and interns, both on campus and in the community to help get out the vote.
About 80 W&J students from all political leanings gathered in the Allen Ballroom on W&J’s campus on Oct. 19 to watch the final 2016 Presidential Debate. Washington Fellows Event Chairs Keira Frazier and Mary Wessell organized the Debate Watch Party and hoped it would encourage their fellow students to be more informed and actively involved in the political process.
“It is our duty as a college to prepare students to be active citizens and workers in the real world,” Keira said. Mary also said she feels that engaging students in the civic process is an important tradition to adopt.
The debate, they said, seemed to spark several well-rounded and educational discussions on the issues as well as the politics of third-party candidates, which is something junior Jacky Anderson has been using her voice to do throughout this election.
As a political science and communication arts major, Jacky wants to pursue a career in strategic political media communications, which is why being involved in fostering conversations about the election has been extremely important to her. Young voters—herself included—are looking for alternatives to the two-party system, she said. That has led her to bring a voice to third-party candidates in the Libertarian Party and their positions in her classes and interactions with other students.
While the Debate Watch Party helped bring students together as the election headed into the final stretch, other students have been engaged in a number of ways for many months.
Since December 2015, junior Owen Hanna has interned with the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. Working roughly 15-30 hours a week, he organizes volunteer efforts, including calling voters, knocking on doors, and getting the message of candidates out to the public, across Washington and Greene counties.
He also coordinates with other offices in Western Pennsylvania to make sure they have enough volunteers, signage, and literature for the polls and will continue doing so throughout Election Day. Like Jacky, Owen sees a lot of voter apathy, which is why he believes expressing opinions through voting locally and nationally is so important. It’s a right we have to make our own choices and have our opinions heard, he says.
W&J freshman Alec Ballard volunteers as a fellow for the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in downtown Washington, Pa., despite not yet being old enough to vote. Though he makes light-hearted mention of his age, he says it has motivated him to make sure those who can vote do.
Alec first began canvassing South Strabane, East Washington, and Washington, Pa., with his roommate to help with voter registration. For the last three weeks, he has served as a community outreach captain, preparing canvassing packets, training cavanvassers and phone bankers, and reporting incoming data to his organizer. Though he’s ready to get back to being a “regular” college student (part of which includes him being able to sleep in again on weekends), Alec says he wouldn’t trade his experience as a volunteer for anything.
Senior Alana Lomis, president of the W&J Campus Republicans, has been focusing her efforts on state legislator elections this campaign season. Upon returning to campus this fall, Alana dove into organizing students in the Campus Republicans, helping students register to vote, and passing out absentee ballots on campus. She also volunteered with the Washington County Republican Party, knocking on doors and calling voters to make sure they were set to get to the polls on Election Day.
Having interned and worked as a scheduler for a U.S. Representative the past two summers, Alana has seen the power that people can have when they get involved as citizens. Not just through voting, she adds, but by calling local and state representatives and by being educated on the issues and about how our political system works so as to be able to make change happen.
As diverse and varied as these strong voices are, they all agree on one thing—the importance of being active and informed in the civic process, especially when it comes to engaging their peers. “As millennials, we make up such a large segment of the population. If we got involved, we would have such a large impact on this election. Our voices do matter,” Alana says.
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.
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