Spotlight: Students turning political interest into action

by Dennis K. Brown

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| Jazmin Garcia ||
p. The apathy of young voters toward the political process is an unfortunate reality.p. In the 2000 presidential election, for example, just 51 percent of eligible voters ages 18-24 registered to vote, and only 36 percent actually cast a ballot. By way of comparison, 72 percent of those in the 65-74-year-old age bracket voted.p. An annual survey of college freshmen nationwide paints a similarly grim picture. Just 33 percent of members of the incoming class of 2002 said they considered following political news to be essential or very important.p. The statistics are better at Notre Dame ? where 50 percent of the respondents in the freshman survey put a high priority on following politics ? and now, as the 2004 presidential campaign moves into high gear, some students are showing a renewed interest in politics.p. Jazmin Garcia is among them.p. A senior from Downey, Calif., Garcia has been active in organizing an excursion by members of Notre Dame’s College Democrats to Iowa for the state’s caucuses Monday ? the official launch of Campaign ‘04. The students will assist the presidential campaign of North Carolina Sen. John Edwards over the weekend and on Monday, helping with voter turnout and counting efforts in Waterloo or Cedar Rapids.p. Garcia said she has been impressed with Edwards and went to his Web site to sign up to volunteer.p. “This is all about the candidate,” she said. "When I heard about John Edwards and his message, I got really excited. I really think he’s looking out for the middle class.p. “I think the experience is going to be fun and exciting. It’s the type of thing you can only do once while in college.”p. Students from Purdue and Indiana Universities will be joining the Notre Dame contingent in Iowa. Upon their return, Garcia said the College Democrats hope to organize other campaign activities in Indiana.p. A political science major, Garcia is familiar with both Iowa politics and the art of campaigning. She ran for and won election as president of Notre Dame’s Class of 2004, and worked as a summer intern in the Washington, D.C., office of Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin. She also has served an internship in a South Bend law firm and spent a semester abroad in Toledo, Spain.p. The idea of running for political office in the future is not out of the question, but first Garcia plans to attend law school. She is especially interested in immigration law because, she said, “I’d like to give back to the Latino community.”p. First, though, she’ll be working in an Iowa community, getting a first-hand look at the 2004 presidential campaign.

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