Fellows at work in Northern Kentucky and Pennsylvania

KY-NY-PA Team Perseveres In Spite of COVID-19

CEEP knew civic engagement in this election cycle would look different. Strategies used in past election cycles, would have to change to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19. Tabling, door-knocking and civic dialogues would all have to be abandoned or adapted. One might expect staring down the barrels of a presidential election and a pandemic would shake our Fellows’ confidence. That could not have been further from the truth.
 
The KY-NY-PA team worked this fall with 4 institutions and 6 Fellows in Kentucky. We worked with another 16 institutions and 27 Fellows in Pennsylvania. At almost every turn, our Fellows came up with new ways to reach students where they were at. The result of these efforts? Record-breaking turnout. Pennsylvania voter registration and participation broke records dating as far back as 1960. In Kentucky, voter turnout shattered the previous record from 2008. I could sing the praises of every one of our Fellows and the work that they did. But that would quickly turn this post into a novel of doorstop proportions. Instead, I want to highlight a few of our KY-NY-PA Fellows and their work.
 

Social Media

Chris Lisle of California University of Pennsylvania knew social media would be “the name of the game” in 2020 civic engagement. Chris thought up a challenge to get his fellow students’ attention. He convinced student groups at CalU to create and post videos giving their reasons for voting. The same groups then challenged others to register more voters. At the end of the challenge, the post that received the most social media interactions won a prize. (Appropriately enough, it came from the cheer team). I loved Chris’ idea because it easy to take part in, and it also created a super-fun way for students to talk about voting. 
 
Like Chris said, social media was the name of the game this semester. Many of our Fellows staged entire media campaigns, complete with their own branding. Nina Mitchell and Ian Coyne at Shippensburg University led a campaign called “When Ship Votes” featuring photos of students alongside their reason for participating in the 2020 election. At Northern Kentucky University, Isabela McClintock led a similar “I Vote Because” campaign. Pictures of students wearing NKUVotes masks ran along with a quote about why they planned to vote. Tiara Wicks at Carnegie Mellon University, asking students to participate at various levels of engagement, from working at the polls to making sure students were #voteready.
 

Videos

Some of our Fellows went a step further and created voting-inspired videos. Caroline Macdonald and Shayna Ortiz, Fellows at La Salle University, gathered clips from campus cultural clubs for a diversity video. Representatives of the clubs encouraged students to vote in their chosen languages. Grace Harnett at Pennsylvania State University created TikTok videos focused on important election dates and other FAQs. One video on a “what to wear to the polls” was re-posted by the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team!
 

Other Ideas

Some Fellows found alternatives to social media to engage their peers. Some of my favorites: Taylor Boyle’s voting-inspired bake-off competition at Clarion University and Kayla Payne’s “Mask Up and Get Out to Vote” event at University of Louisville.
 
None of this is to say that Fellows didn’t use the traditional ways of engaging students. Dylan Geary went door-to-door in the dorms at Lindsey Wilson College. Following campus safety protocols, Dylan made sure students had necessary information to register for and take part in the election
 
This fall, our Fellows faced incredible barriers to conducting civic engagement. COVID-19 forced them and many other students to change their day-to-day routines. Despite those challenges, our KY-NY-PA Fellows found ways to reach their fellow students. Their creativity, perseverance and determination showed through in the work they did. I could not have been prouder to work alongside them and I look forward to seeing what they do in the future. 
 
Lauren Ban Assistant
State Director for PA

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