The Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts (HECCMA) released a video last month that highlights the importance of registering to vote in the words of local college students, including several from Worcester State. With the September primaries and November election inching closer by the day, and with the news cycle constantly shifting, HECCMA’s goal was to help students refocus their attention on civic engagement.
“It is my sincere hope that students who may otherwise be preoccupied by coronavirus, school work, jobs, and family responsibilities, will be reminded of the importance of voting,” says Jeanine Went, Ph.D., HECCMA’s executive director.
Went, who reports to a board of college presidents from Worcester county (President Barry M. Maloney), developed the video idea as part of HECCMA’s 5-year strategic plan.
“One of the goals of the plan is to encourage and enable students to take fuller advantage of opportunities available on other campuses, opportunities to engage actively in the community, and opportunities to utilize the rich cultural resources of the region,” she says. “While discussing strategies to achieve that goal, youth voter engagement was an area of shared interest. I assembled a group of college community engagement professionals, as well as the leader of Worcester Voter Registration Initiative (WVRI), Kenneth Amoah, to develop a think tank around the issue, and used their collective brainpower to develop a plan of action.”
The video features short testimonials from students at Becker College and Worcester State, who all share different perspectives on why they are registered to vote and why their peers should register to vote, too.
Marc-Kendy Paul ’22 says that he registered to vote because he believes that “this election will determine our country’s future,” while Karen Shalev ’22 says she is registered to vote because she wants “tomorrow’s future to come today.”
Michaela Kowalyk ’23 points out the importance of history in the electoral process: “The people before us in history fought so hard for us to have this right, and now it’s our job to honor those people and help make a difference, too,” she says.
Shawn Reniere ‘24 pointed to the community representation aspect of voter registration. “We should strive for change and have proper representation in the government,” says Reniere.
Worcester State Students Charles Bray ‘21, Nicholas Holm ‘23, and Vinny Pelegrino ‘24 are also featured in the video.
Went says that beyond voter registration, HECCMA is also working with Binienda Center for Civic Engagement Director Mark Wagner, as well as Associate Professor Tona Hangen, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Tony Dell’Aera, Ph.D., both of the History and Political Science Department, to plan a multi-campus debate on ballot question 2: Ranked Choice Voting. The debate is tentatively scheduled to take place on Constitution Day, which is Thursday, Sept. 17.
“We should soon have more information on speakers, moderators, and participants,” says Went. “It’s going to be an exciting event, shared and participated-in virtually with members of the consortium faculty, staff, students and the broader community. Stay tuned for more information!”
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