By Darren Myers
Managing & Online Editor
MONROEVILLE, Pa – It’s election season and a new organization on campus wants you to know that every vote counts.
My Vote Matters is an organization on the Penn State New Kensington campus that’s main goal is to inform students that not only does their vote matter, but their opinion matters too. The college student demographic is known for not being politically involved, but this group is attempting to change that.
It all started when Corporate Communications student Millie Brasser read “Soul of a Citizen” in Dr. Andrea Adolph’s Fundamental of Civic and Community Engagement course during the Fall 2015 semester.
“I was touched by the book and wanted to make a difference in the community,” Brasser said. With that, Brasser emailed Paul R. Loeb, the author of “Soul of a Citizen.” He responded by encouraging Brasser to make a difference of her own – by starting her own campus chapter of My Vote Matters at PSNK. Loeb is also the Campus Election Engagement Project founder, which supports a number of voting education organizations throughout the country.
The most important factor in Brasser’s creation of the organization is that she didn’t want any hierarchy involved. “No President, no Vice President, no nothing,” said Brasser. This, however, caused a potential red flag with the Student Government Association (SGA) on campus because, in order to be considered a club, those position need filled.
After careful consideration and countless meetings with Chancellor Snider, the resolution was made that My Vote Matters would be an organization on campus, not a club. This way everyone can work together as a team without titles or different positions of power. However, the organization will be sponsored by SGA and can still therefore apply for funding.
“We’re just a group of students with a similar interest,” said junior Psychology major Jon McCabe. “It started as a small idea and just snowballed from there.”
My Vote Matters has plenty of goals for the rest of the semester and they look to capitalize on their terrific start.
“Our goal is to register 100-150 students from campus,” Brasser said. And they’ve started off their first sign-up day with upwards of 30 students registering.
Sophomore Political Science major Derrek Koblinsky is a key component to the group’s success. Koblinsky, has already been offered an internship with Pennsylvania State Representative Eli Evankovich, and also has interviews for internships with Senator of Pennsylvania Pat Toomey and U.S. Representative Keith Rothfus.
“College kids are so incredibly apathetic when it comes to this,” said Koblinsky in reference of voting. “We want to inform students beyond just registering to vote.”
My Vote Matters is a completely non-partisan group, meaning that they do not have any party affiliation, nor do they collectively advertise or endorse any specific candidate. They simply want to inform students of politics and gain an interest in educating them on things that matter.
To help inform students, My Vote Matters will be screening pieces of each debate, both Democratic and Republican, in Café 780 throughout the semester. The assumption is that if the students are surrounded by current political rhetoric, it will spark conversation.
Sparking conversation doesn’t seem to be a problem. Everyone seems to have their opinions, be them informed or not, but that is the focus of this group. According to Koblinsky, “We don’t care what your party affiliation is. The meetings we conduct are essentially just everyone venting their ideas. We don’t want people to feel pressured to talk, but we also want people to speak their mind and create conversations.”
The group wants to focus on generating conversation, rather than debate. “The debate can come after your informed,” Koblinsky joked.
My Vote Matters will be hosting an event known as the Diplomatic Dinner on Feb. 25 in the Conference Center. Key note speakers attending this event include Eli Evankovich and Erin McClelland, whom is contesting Keith Rothfus in Pennsylvania’s 12th District. Reservations are in the works for other potential speakers.
The hope is that having local and state-level politicians to come in, explain how voting matters, and to inform the audience of political problems facing our area.
“Kids don’t care and I want to change that,” said Brasser in summary.
This organization couldn’t function without the help and support of everyone involved: Aaron Holness, Danielle Richardson, Jon McCabe, Cecily Petrarca, Kyle Waraks, and Broderick Gerano are key members to this organization and people who Brasseur has very high respect for.
Dr. Hammond, Dr. Andrea, Chancellor Snider, and Professor Aima are among the staff who are affiliated with My Vote Matters and they are there to give a helping hand to Brasseur and the organization whenever needed.
The organization meets once a week on Wednesdays during common hour. The room changes on a weekly basis based on availability, but it’s an outlet in to spark creative conversation through promoting political education.