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My College Experience

Inspiring political engagement at Swarthmore and beyond

This fall, we served as student democracy fellows with Swarthmore’s Get Out the Vote committee, collaborating across campus—and beyond—to facilitate participation in the electoral process and encourage lifelong civic engagement.

For me, Jacob, I’ve learned a lot by being exposed to a new set of political realities in Pennsylvania while remaining engaged in those of New Jersey, where I still vote by mail. It’s offered me a new perspective on the relationships between local and national debates and forms of participation, as well as heightened my dedication to improving access to absentee ballots for students who wish to remain involved in the politics of the neighborhoods they call home.

For me, Simran, I was especially grateful to have been able to approach this through the lens of my work as an associate for politics and public policy at the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility. It means a lot to advise and assist students in discovering issues and areas of impact that drive them to work toward causes greater than themselves.

Perhaps the most personally exciting of the initiatives we helped coordinate with the Swarthmore Political Access Network (a student group operating under the guidance of the Lang Center and the GOTV committee) was the establishment of weekly “office hours.” Held in Parrish Hall during lunchtime, these office hours saw us assisting our classmates with election matters, like helping them register to vote, request and return absentee ballots, or access political information.

We hope that the regular availability of resources established partly through these weekly office hours, as well as through our overall efforts to build a coalition of election- and issue-oriented organizations, has planted the seeds for lifelong political action. We wanted to help pay forward what we’ve gained by being here, and to empower all of our classmates. We are proud to have helped boost Swarthmore’s voting numbers, and to experience firsthand our community’s persistent, pervasive willingness to work diligently to uphold our collective values and commitments.

As graduation looms, we look forward to seeing which new initiatives the campus will foster in future elections, knowing our classmates will lead the charge.

—JACOB DEMREE ’19, an honors medical anthropology special major from Mount Laurel, N. J., and SIMRAN SINGH ’19, an honors economics and political science major from Valley Forge, Pa.