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Students Head to DNC
Durham, NC - If young voters decide to get involved in the 2012 presidential election, student activists like Duke senior Elena Botella will lead the way.
Botella, an A.B. Duke scholar from Charlotte, has been selected to serve as a North Carolina delegate at the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in her hometown. She said her election is a move toward giving younger voters a greater voice on issues that matter to them.
"Historically, young adults have been underrepresented at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions," Botella said. This year, however, about a fifth of the delegation of 158 will be under the age of 35 and five are college students, she said.
"This is significant because we constitute political representation that will be forward-looking," said Botella, president of the College Democrats of North Carolina and a former president of Duke Democrats. "Young Americans and college students really have 'skin in the game' when it comes to climate change, fiscal sustainability and education."
Botella and other members of Duke Democrats will attend an official youth event at the convention.
Botella isn't just talk. Under her leadership, Duke Democrats won the 2012 College Democrats of North Carolina Chapter of the Year for improving turnout and interest in the municipal election, for work on the Wake County School Board Campaign and in the campaign against Amendment One, which stated that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be recognized as valid in NC.
She traces the roots of her interest in politics to the Duke-Durham Hunger Alliance, which she joined as a first-year student to learn more about the local community. The math and economics major was impressed by non-profits doing impressive work to resolve poverty and food insecurity, including TROSA, Church World Service, SEEDS, and the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
The experience also left her, however, with the conviction that solving society's biggest challenges -- poverty, environmental degradation or education -- shouldn't be the sole responsibility of non-profits or private companies.
"I want a government that will help solve problems," she said. "Our government eradicated polio, built the Hoover Dam and the Interstate Highway system and passed the GI Bill to help veterans go to college and to build a middle class. I turned to political activism within the Democratic Party because I have been afraid our society has given up on the notion of solving problems together as a country. I believe that what is best for each of us is what is best for all of us."