On Saturday, April 9, college Democrats from all across Pennsylvania gathered at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) for the annual Pennsylvania College Democrats (PACD) Convention. The event lasted until Sunday, April 10, and included multiple breakout sessions, open forums and social gatherings, giving college democrats the opportunity to interact and strengthen connections between their chapters.
On the first day, students had the opportunity to hear from many speakers, including Katy McGinty and John Fetterman, and students were provided lunch.
After that, students had the opportunity to listen to many panelists. The panelists were divided into three back-to-back breakout sessions, moderated by the vice presidents of the executive board of the PACD. Panelists include PACD alumni as well as current PACD executive board members. The forums focused on external and internal college democratic operations as well as the candidate versus the operative perspective in terms of a future in politics. The breakout session with the highest attendance was a breakout session that focused on politics and law school.
“Usually I don’t really like breakouts, but these were great,” said WCU freshman Elizabeth Gibson.
Gibson is a double major in communications and political science. Gibson is an active member in the WCU College Democrats.
Gibson commented on her favorite breakout session.
“I really enjoyed hearing about external operations from the panelists perspective. I didn’t realize how many opportunities there were to get involved politics outside of the WCU College Dems, and I wasn’t aware of how day it is to get involved in local elections,” Gibson said.
After the breakout sessions, dinner was served alongside awards for Chapter of the Year and Democrat of the Year. The WCU Democrats club was nominated but lost to the Penn State University College Democrats.
Gabbi Hill, a member of the Pittsburgh College Democrats who planned the same convention last year at University of Pittsburgh, received the award for Democrat of the Year. Hill gave a speech talking about her sexual assault the previous year and how planning the convention and the family she made with PACD helped her stay strong and successfully plan last year’s convention.
Senate candidate Joe Sestak spoke to students about how he became a democrat due to his daughter contracting brain cancer and walking across Pennsylvania.
That evening, students had the opportunity to watch a senate debate on Penn State’s campus featuring Senate candidates Sestak, Katie McGinty and John Fetterman. Students were given the chance to ask the candidates questions ranging from topics such as the importance of secondary education and minimum wage.
Later that night, students from the convention gathered together for a social, where they had the chance to interact with one another and build connections with chapters across the state.
“I really appreciate the fact that the PACD executive board set up the convention so that students had the opportunity to meet one another,” said WCU freshman Katherine Mash, who is the treasurer for WCU College Democrats.
Mash talked about making connections with chapters across the state.
“Because West Chester is so far away from the Western chapters, this is the only opportunity to meet students passionate about politics,” said Mash. “That was probably my favorite aspect of the convention. It’s good to know that there are students out there with as much of a passion for politics.”
The following day, students were provided brunch while re-elections for the PACD executive board took place. The positions of President, Eastern and Central Regional Vice Presidents, Political Affairs Director, Finance Director, Communications Director, Membership Director and State Council Chair. One member of each of their chapters provided their candidate with a two-minute introductory speech before the candidate gave their five-minute speech. Candidates were allowed to run on the convention floor, where they announced their candidacy after the convention began and required endorsements from schools aside from their own. Two students in the WCU College Democrats were elected to be on the board: Kevin Carson, the current WCU Democrats President, will serve as Eastern Vice President, and Christina Smith, a member of the general body of the WCU College Democrats, will serve as State Council Chair.
Mash talked about wanting to get involved.
“After seeing the elections, I realized that I could easily become apart of the executive board and affect real change. The members of the executive board have such a strong influence on all of the PACD chapters, as they are the glue connecting all of them,” said Mash. “It’s amazing seeing the influence they have on chapters and members of the general body. I honestly cannot wait to attend the convention next year. I may even run for a position on the executive board.”
If you are interested in getting involved either the PACD or the WCU College Democrats, please contact Kevin Carson at KC831704@wcupa.edu
Kinjal Shah is a second-year student majoring in English. Contact them at KS826308@wcupa.edu