The culmination of student voter registration and participation has earned Kean University a Gold Seal and Best in Class Award in the national ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, going to show that each vote counts.
When Kean University students set voter registration tables in 2018 to engage their peers to register to vote, little did they know that their efforts would earn Kean the honor of the Most Improved Undergraduate Voting Rate at a Medium, Public, 4 Year College for the 2018 Midterm Election. On Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019 Kean University was recognized for this achievement at the All IN Challenge Awards Ceremony in Washington, DC. Kean University was also granted a Gold Seal, a designation allotted to campuses with 40 to 49 percent voter participation in the 2018 Midterm Election.
Representatives from the Human Rights Institute, Director Lauretta Farrell and student Patrick McEachern, as well as representatives from the Center for Leadership and Service (CLS), Director Scott Snowden, Managing Assistant Director for Community Service and Civic Engagement Susan Figueroa and Service Specialist Jason Pleitez, received the award on behalf of Kean University.
"It was interesting to see how many young people do care about voter registration," said Pleitez. "When it came to people talking about their own experiences and how hard they work to have other people register, it pushes me to do more...It opened my eyes, especially more now that next year is the presidential election."
Pleitez, who specializes in Global Citizenship: Human Rights and Disaster Relief, had taken over voter registration tabling efforts for this year, following last year's efforts by CLS Service Specialists Kristen Fallia and Gabriella Lapointe. Continuing the recent voter accomplishments, Pleitez and Figueroa are currently working together to strategize new ways to engage Kean students to register and vote, especially in light of next year's presidential election. This new plan will then be submitted to the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge to be critiqued, recognized and supported for maximum effectiveness of the plan.
"If young people vote, our voices will be heard," said Pleitez. "The problem is that young people don't vote, so [politicians] won't try to complete the needs we want. [Consideration will] go to the people that actually vote. So, if older people vote on issues like Medicaid and stuff like that, they won't vote on issues like tuition and colleges and stuff like this, so we need to have our voice heard and the only way to do that is by voting."
The All IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a national awards program that challenges universities to increase student democratic participation and citizenship. The challenge emphasizes increased student voter registration and involvement and helps universities create action plans for each year. It commits participating campuses to increase their students' voter participation and form well rounded, active citizens. 1058 campuses, 572 institutions, and 48 states (along with Washington D.C.) participate in the All IN Campus Democracy Challenge. The challenge also celebrates the accomplishments made by students and encourages future accomplishments.