Student Ambassadors Bring Voter Registration Movement to Campus

Photo by Nicole Williams

With the 2016 presidential campaign well underway, two Ramapo students are taking strides to make sure their peers are among those heading to the polls in November.

Freshmen Houda Essafi and Nina Schulze connected with the Andrew Goodman Foundation in December and made the partnership official at the start of this semester. Essafi and Schulze are now Ramapo’s official ambassadors to the foundation.

In 1964, Andrew Goodman and two other college students traveled into the American South in an attempt to help African-Americans register to vote during a time when there were many obstacles set between African-Americans and the voting booth.

During their stay in Mississippi, Goodman and his friends were kidnapped and murdered by the Ku Klux Klan, prompting his parents and brother to create the foundation in his name in order to carry on the spirit of what he set out to do.

One facet of the Andrew Goodman Foundation is the Vote Everywhere Campaign.

“The campaign connects with colleges and sets up student ambassadorships to establish a culture of voting, awareness and civic engagement,” Essafi said.

She and Schulze are now working with the Civic and Community Engagement Center to start up a task force of students to help expand their efforts. Their main goal is to create a culture and an environment where political engagement is the norm and where students are able to learn about and discuss the candidates and political issues. They want to educate students as well as register them.

“It’s important for college kids to be educated about the candidates,” said Jimmy Costanzo, freshman. “The decisions made by Congress and our local governments affect our daily lives.”

Essafi and Schulze are attempting to register 400 Ramapo students by the end of this semester. They plan to set up a table on campus in order to streamline the registration process and connect with similar clubs on campus to educate voters.

Eventually, they also hope to have polling on campus, so students are not forced to take shuttles to off-campus locations to vote.

“It’s about getting people registered to vote, and getting them out to vote too,” Essafi said, noting that their goal is not just centered around the presidential campaign, but the 2017 gubernatorial election and various local elections as well. “We want to make it a force to push students to do more, to learn more and to be more,” she continued.

According to CNBC, only 38 percent of 18 to 24 year-olds voted in the 2012 presidential election. The 2016 campaign has already created a lot of buzz amongst young voters, and Essafi and Schulze aim to make sure more Ramapo students are among those voting this November.

“Voting’s a matter of principle,” said freshman Jacob King. “You should exercise your right to vote because it's a right you have. Even if your candidate doesn’t win, your vote matters.”