NORFOLK, Neb. – Engaging young people in the political process has been the goal of many organizations over the years. Count Northeast Community College’s new Inclusivity, Diversity and Equity Alliances (IDEA) sub-committee among them.
IDEA members teamed up recently with student leaders to provide an opportunity for the student body to register to vote in the Nov. 3 election. A voter registration station was set up over two days in Northeast’s Hawks Point, featuring students from the Northeast Student Leadership Association and Student Activities Council who staffed the tables, assisted by college faculty and staff.
Pam Saalfeld, chair of the IDEA sub-committee, said that voter registration was one of her short-term goals for the sub-committee.
“I wanted students to know how important it is for their voices to be heard,” Saalfeld said. “For many, November’s Presidential Election is their first opportunity to cast their vote.”
Voter registration station volunteers helped five students register to vote and assisted two other students find their polling sites. While Saalfeld was excited with the results of their efforts, what really impressed her was the answer to a certain question she and the other volunteers asked.
“Students would approach our table, and we’d ask the question ‘Are you registered to vote?’ And the answer was always ‘Yes!,’” she said. “In addition, many students said they’d already voted. And that’s what it is all about!”
The IDEA group was formed at Northeast over the summer in reaction to civil unrest across the country. Members are working to address issues of inclusion, diversity, and equity to ensure that everyone feels welcome on all Northeast campuses.
The group’s work falls into several areas, including a review of policies and procedures to determine if there are barriers to anyone achieving success through their studies or work, ensure that the college is welcoming to all, and make certain that Northeast is celebrating different cultures among those on campus and through the curriculum.
Emily Hassler, of Battle Creek, SLA vice president, said the work falls in line with one of the goals of SLA – to encourage student participation in the electoral process. She said voting allows students to make a difference.
“It’s important for students to let their voices be heard. They get to put their opinion in when they vote. We can vote for so many things,” Hassler said. “As a member of Student Leadership Association, it’s important for me to encourage the student body to register and begin participating in their civic duties. They are a big part when it comes to voting.”
Saalfeld remembers her first time at the polls.
“This is going to date me, “she said, smiling, “but my first-time voting was the 1980 Presidential Election between Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and the Independent candidate John Anderson. “I voted for Anderson.”
And Saalfeld has voted in every election since then.