College Debate 2016: College students organize nationally, hope to have a voice

By Allie Stein
September 8, 2016

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In the history of all presidential elections, have college students ever had the opportunity to come together and formally share their thoughts and opinions on the issues that really matter to them?

Not until 2016.

On Sept. 6, I, along with more than 130 other college students, came together from all over the country to Dominican University of California for the first ever College Debate.

“College Debate 2016,” as it has formally been named, was hosted by Dominican University of California, located in San Rafael, Calif., just 15 miles outside of San Francisco.  

This was not the first time we had all been together.

In June, there was a 2-day training conference. We had the opportunity to listen to speakers, attend breakout sessions and talk in small groups about issues that we believe are crucial in this upcoming election.

College Debate 2016 is the first of its kind. It is a national, non-partisan initiative to encourage and empower young voters to discuss and identify the issues that are most important to them.  

The goal is to get the conversation started here and then to bring it back to our own campuses so that our peers are encouraged to get involved, speak up and vote.

Why focus on young voters? Why do our voices matter anyway?

Well, whoever is elected in November will do a lot to determine how our country will run for the next four years.  For a majority of college students, the next four years will be when many of us will be getting our very first job, living on our own and facing the “real world.”  

We will be just starting the rest of our lives. This is our future.  If we do not speak up for our generation, who will?

According to Pew Research Center, youth voter turnout rates declined from 2008 to 2012. According to the Census Bureau report, the turnout rate among 18- to 24-year-olds fell to 41.2 percent in 2012 from 48.5 percent in 2008.

We have voices and opinions and we need to speak up and show the world what issues matter to us.  

In less than 48 hours, this is exactly what I, along with more than 130 other students from all across the country, did.

We identified the top five issues that were most important to us as a group.  We agreed on education, immigration, foreign policy, the economy and social justice.

In smaller groups we identified questions that we would like to see asked in a presidential debate.  We then took part in a town hall in which we voted on the top five questions.  These questions will be sent to the moderators of the debates this fall.

With just two months until Election Day, the energy at Dominican was high, just as it should be on every campus.

If you are like me, this is the first election you actually can be a part of.  

Instead of just sitting back, get out there and voice your opinion! I promise you, your voice matters.

Before getting involved with College Debate, I knew I was going to vote, but I never really believed my opinion actually mattered.

College Debate showed me that getting involved means so much more than just registering to vote.  

Having the opportunity to share my thoughts and opinions on issues was empowering, thought provoking and helped me realize how important my voice is.

Before you think you can just do all the talking, realize that listening and being open to other opinions that are different than your own is just as crucial.

So, grab your friends, classmates, teammates and peers and get the conversation started. Ask questions, tell each other what matters to you, and most importantly do not be afraid to speak up!

We can make a difference in this upcoming election, but we all have to take the first step.

In June, one of the speakers, Dr. Sybril Brown, a professor of journalism at Belmont University, told us that “revolutions are typically started by college students.”

Get involved and be a part of a revolution.  

Together I really think we can make a difference.

So, what issues matter to you? There is still plenty of time to get involved and join the conversation.  Online be sure to use the hashtag “CollegeDebate16” online.

Let’s see what we can do!

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Allie Stein

Senior communication major with a passion for writing, storytelling and speaking. Member of the women's swim team, former staff writer, assistant lifestyles editor for Loquitur and head sports anchor for LOQation Weekly News.

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