Campus Life

New Kensington political forum designed to educate young voters

Nonpartisan group My Vote Matters energizes college students for the general election

Penn State New Kensington students and My Vote Matters volunteers, left to right, Nathan Traini, Alex Heyer, Kierstin Flickinger, Isabella Bordonaro and Millie Brasser, work the registration table Sept. 27 during National Voter Registration Day.  Credit: Bill Woodard / Penn StateCreative Commons

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — As the general election approaches, the Penn State New Kensington student organization My Vote Matters is mobilizing the college youth and community vote by sponsoring an evening social featuring local politicians at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4, in the campus’ Café 780.

The event, “Diplomatic Discussion,” will feature presentations by Erin McCelland, who is running for the congressional seat in the 12th District against incumbent Keith Rothfus in the general election in November; Tom Guzzo, mayor of New Kensington; a representative from the office of state Sen. Jim Brewster, D-45th; and Michael Geiselhart, Republican candidate for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ 55th District currently held by Joseph Petrarca, D-Vandergrift.

The guest speakers will discuss the importance of getting involved in politics and registering to vote. They will not espouse policy or campaign positions. An interactive question-and-answer session with the audience will follow.

The event is free to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

To RSVP for the discussion, call Danielle Richardson at 724-882-5846 or Millie Brasser at 724-814-1544.

My Vote Matters
My Vote Matters was founded in fall 2015 to educate and register first-time voters. The group, led by Millie Brasser, a junior corporate communications major, is dedicated to enlightening young voters on the importance of getting involved in the political process, be it on a local, state or national level. The group doesn’t espouse the views of any political party or candidate.

“Our goal is to make a difference for young people not only at the campus but in the community,” said Brasser, a resident of Tarentum.

Formed under the auspicious of the Student Government Association, the committee comprises eight members — Nathan Traini, Isabella Bordonaro, Danielle Richardson, John McCabe, Nico Regoli, Alex Heyer, Kierstin Flickinger and Brasser.

Richardson, McCabe and Brasser are the only holdovers from the charter group, which lost six members to graduation or relocation to the University Park campus to complete their bachelor’s degree studies. Volunteers worked for more than a year to register students to vote, educate students on issues and candidates, recruit members, build election excitement, and get out the vote.

“I love encouraging students to vote,” said Richardson, the campus’ 2016 Eric A. and Josephine S. Walker Award recipient. “I want to help create a culture on campus that facilitates positive discussions about politics and voting.”

The five new members are equally as passionate about their civic duty and participating in civic activities. They are helping fellow students and citizens understand democracy and the political system.

“I am concerned about citizen involvement in our democracy,” Traini said. “Without an involved citizenry, a democratic society is that only in name.”

“I want to help inform other students about why voting matters,” Bordonaro said. “So many kids think that they can't do anything to change our government, when they can.”

Since February, more than 140 campus students and community members joined voting rolls. New voters must register by Oct. 11 to be eligible for the Nov. 8 general elections.

On Sept. 27, the Brasser-led group took part in National Voter Registration Day, setting up a registration table on campus outside Café 780. National Voter Registration Day is a partnership between more than 3,600 organizations sponsoring 600 grassroots events across the country to encourage people to join the democratic process. The campus entity registered several students. According to Brasser, most campus students had registered previously and were committed to voting in the November elections.

The registration drive continues. My Vote Matters will set up registration tables twice a week, from noon to 1 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, in Café 780 or the main lobby next to the Junction coffee bar.

The get-out-the-vote project is based on a national model, “Campus Election Engagement Project,” that was detailed in the book “Soul of a Citizen” by Paul Loeb. While people may think their vote doesn’t matter, Loeb provides anecdotal evidence of how elections can turn on a scant number of votes and how one vote can turn into hundreds and thousands when like-minded citizens become players in the game of politics.

For more about voter registration drive, email Brasser.

Penn State New Kensington’s Craig Hammond, standing, associate professor of history and adviser to the My Vote Matters club, moderated the panel discussion at February’s Diplomatic Discussion.  Credit: Bill Woodard / Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated October 04, 2016

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