By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
From L to R: Todd Palin, Lucas Alm, Molly Wyer, Rebecca Beach, an aide, Erin Pradia, an aide, Sarah Palin, an aide, an aide, Nicole Forcine
Patrick Henry College sophomore, Erin Pradia, one of the van drivers, watched intently as Secret Service agents shouted, “Photo op! Photo op!” From the front van, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and her husband emerged and graciously greeted the press. Then, before boarding the campaign plane, Palin turned to an aide.
“I want to thank the volunteers,” she said. The van drivers, most of them PHC students, shook the hands of Todd and Sarah Palin and then lined up by the plane for a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.
“I was really impressed that [Palin] spent so much time with each of us—about fifteen seconds,” says Pradia. “She asked each of our names, and we also had a chance to say something to her. I complimented her on her poise during the debates.”
“[Palin] is just as beautiful in person as everyone says,” exclaims freshman Rebecca Beach.
This slightly unusual episode reflects the almost uncanny tendency of PHC students to show up at the right place and the right time, especially in matters political. A few weeks before the Palin rally, a PHC alum in D.C. learned that the McCain campaign needed trustworthy drivers for their Virginia motorcade. The alum connected them to volunteers at Patrick Henry College. So while thousands crowded into McCain/Palin rallies to catch a piece of history, PHC students dashed around behind the scenes, chauffeuring candidates from airport, to hotel, to venue.
“What impressed me was watching how (Palin’s) staffers worked together,” says senior Nicole Forcine. “I could see the positive attitude and excellence of one young Christian woman who was there to serve, as opposed to others who were out to further their own careers.”
Student Action Teams
This type of hands-on civic and political involvement is an important part of Patrick Henry College’s ethic of service to God and country, a striving for excellence and integrity in both word and deed. To further encourage its students to walk out their beliefs in this manner, the College’s Academic Calendar includes a fall break from November 3-4, specifically so that interested students can help on campaigns without losing academic standing.
This year, 75 students and staff have signed up for “Student Action Teams” with Generation Joshua (GenJ), a nonprofit youth organization started by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and other groups. These students fan out across the country to lead more than 1,000 youth, mostly between the ages of fourteen and seventeen, who will canvas for candidates in eighteen races in fourteen different states.
“We have lots of young people as volunteers, but they need someone to lead them,” says Caleb Dalton, Student Action Team Coordinator for GenJ.
Teams are assigned to work in congressional races during the critical last 72 hours prior to the November 4th election, explains Nicole Forcine. They will also be campaigning for candidates through phone banking and door-to-door literature drops. On Election Day itself, the young people will segue into sign-waving. “That’s where we get more involved with any local candidates we can endorse,” Forcine says.
And after election day, whether nursing bruised psyches or celebrating victories, everyone involved will have gained valuable insight into the civic practices of a free country. Having further grounded their political beliefs through the sacrifice of time and energy, participants walk away with a greater appreciation of both the privilege and responsibility of American citizenship.
Adds sophomore Betsy Sayre, who traveled to her home state of northeastern Pennsylvania to work a campaign with seven other family members: “This is an awesome way to live out what [Patrick Henry College] is about—impacting the culture.”
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