Let’s Get Political: Volunteering for political campaigns
In light of this week’s primary elections, I want to take some time to discuss why I think that volunteering on a political campaign is an excellent experience before college and/or during college. I’ve done all three and I can’t emphasize enough what a great experience volunteering on a campaign can be.
As a senior in high school, I got peripherally involved in a Students for (John) Kerry group and even though my participation was limited, it was still an excellent way to connect politically before I could vote. When I got to college the following year, I was more than ready to jump into volunteering on a pro-choice ballot campaign in California. This was a great way to learn about issue-based campaigns and immerse myself in political topics relevant to my new state. It also introduced me to many students on campus with whom I shared political views and passions that I might not have met otherwise. I volunteered on a similar campaign the following year, which conveniently coincided with my decision to major in politics, another excellent tie-in between academics and outside endeavors.
And of course, interning for Grassroots Campaigns, Inc. to support Barack Obama’s campaign was an incredibly valuable experience. I met a range of people from recent college grads to mid-career professionals choosing to volunteer on top of their day jobs. By interning in the local office near my campus, I learned more about campaigns and the individual policy points relevant to such a momentous election. On election night, I wore one of several Obama T-shirts that I own. A friend said to me, “For me, it’s pretty much just a shirt. For you, it’s something way more important.” So very, very true. (And kind of him to say out loud.)
Make a T-shirt mean more than just a T-shirt: get involved in a political campaign. Why? The reasons are numerous.
Getting political in high school provides early exposure to skills and issues relevant in college.
Working with new people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, talking to strangers, learning to communicate concisely and effectively—it’s all there. I only wish that I’d gotten more involved in a campaign in high school because doing so, even on my cursory level at the time, motivated me to really learn about current affairs, which prepared me for discussions inside and outside of the classroom in college. Furthermore, I think that campaign experience can only help a college application because it demonstrates the kind of initiative, work ethic, and passion for pertinent issues that colleges look for in applicants. And who knows? You might even discover a skill or interest that you didn’t know you had and want to pursue in college.
Getting political in college means connecting on campus—and off.
The first two campaigns that I volunteered for in college shed light on California politics and unique policy procedures. Many hear “campaign” and think only of national, high-profile campaigns, but more local campaigns are such a great way to connect with the community surrounding a college and learn about the city or state. Moreover, most colleges have campus groups for political parties as well as specific issues or even timely campaigns, making political participation another method of getting involved on campus. Interested in a campaign that lacks a campus group? Start one!
So there you have it, my political nerd’s soapbox speech for getting political. But honestly, watching a certain primary’s results on Tuesday made me so proud that I volunteered for it during its earliest days last summer. It was so worth the hundreds of cold calls and collating for hours. So very, very worth it.