Power to the VotersGAMBIER, Ohio (August 31, 2007) Campus credibility runs high for a new national nonprofit organization that wants to ramp up civic engagement among students.
Much of the brain trust of the Student Association for Voter Empowerment (SAVE) can be found in Kenyon's English, sociology and history classes. And SAVE, which was founded in May with an office in
Matthew Segal, class of 2008, is the founder and executive director of SAVE. Anna Salzberg, class of 2009, is the development director. Sarah Cohen, class of 2008, is the director of grassroots development. The volunteer national staff also includes students from
Segal developed the ideas behind SAVE late last year, building on the student voting experience here in the 2004 presidential election. The determination of Kenyon students to vote despite queuing up for hours attracted national attention. Segal, a twenty-one-year-old resident of
SAVE is Segal's activist spirit channeled into practice. The nonpartisan organization intends to increase voter participation among those eighteen through twenty-nine. The board of directors includes a number of former elected officials, a Newsweek editor and an NAACP lobbyist.
The goals include: Make voter registration and civic education part of the higher-education mission; organize bipartisan issues forums; create a youth poll-worker program to turn young citizens into elections officials; tutor high school students on issues awareness, philanthropy, and voters' rights.
Civic-engagement programs at the college level are "essentially nonexistent," Segal said. "When you look at why participation and turnout are so low, it's a symptom of an education system failing us."
Segal believes students should be engaged in communities where colleges are located and vote there, despite some resistance. The sometimes frayed relationship between boards of elections and students could be mended if students learn about local issues and candidates, he said.
Earning a stake in the local community can start with being a tutor to local teenagers. Salzberg, a 20-year-old resident of
"Our organization is all about empowerment," Salzberg said. "We're catching the 2008 wave. Students want to make an impact."
For more information, visit www.savevoting.org.