When it came to getting City Councilmember-elect Barbara Bry into office, the campaign had what it calls “all stars” who helped outreach efforts — a team of high school and college student volunteers. Some signed on in the early days, and many were at campaign headquarters on election night to celebrate the win.
“Encouraging young people to become civically engaged is important for the future of our community. I knew we needed to build a grassroots, volunteer-driven campaign to win this race, so we created a political fellowship program,” Bry said. “My team and I visited high school and college classrooms throughout District 1 and discussed volunteer opportunities with our campaign, but ultimately, it grew organically by word-of-mouth. We encouraged students to bring friends, and over the course of the campaign, our volunteer team expanded exponentially.”
She added the students were the “heart and soul of our campaign” and she would continue her internship program at City Hall.
For UCSD Political Science (focus on international relations) major Beryl Lewis, the Bry campaign was the first time she joined a political effort. She called it a learning experience for a possible future in public service. “I live in Carlsbad, and saw the efforts against the One Paseo project. I knew I wanted to be a part of another grassroots campaign,” she said. “When Barbara came along, I thought she was a good candidate whom I could support and I wanted to be a part of her campaign.”
Responsible for canvassing neighborhoods and making phone calls, Lewis said she learned the importance of in-person interactions. “I remember walking door-to-door and sometimes people would brush me off, but other times I would get to have really good conversations. I found some people neutral or undecided, or in some cases against (Barbara Bry) and I was able to make a difference and help her get elected,” she said.
For Torrey Pines High School student Caroline Zhang, being a part of the campaign and watching Bry get elected gave her “a new appreciation for the democratic process.” As a result, she is considering a career in politics. “Government is where the change happens,” she said. “Maybe one day, down the road, I can be a part of making changes through public service.”
She said she heard about the campaign through social media and saw it as a growth opportunity. “Before joining the campaign, talking on the phone was not something I was skilled at, but by making phone calls, I learned to communicate and really listen to what people have to say. I watched Barbara interact with people, and she really listened to constituents’ concerns and what they cared about,” Zhang said.
The 16-year-old joined the Bry camp in spring, and identified with Bry because of her science background. “I also have an interest in science,” Zhang said, “so it meant a lot to me that she is a strong supporter of women in science and politics, and I got to work on her campaign ... I would have been happy whether we won or lost, but it’s even better that on my first political campaign as an intern, she won!”
Sydney Patchett, 17, said she has always had an interest in politics. “During Obama’s presidency I got really involved and educated myself on how government works, but I was so focused on the presidency, I have to admit, I was ignorant on the role and the importance of local government,” she said. “So when I had the chance to get some firsthand experience on a local campaign, I jumped at the chance.”
She said among the things she learned, was the importance of endorsements and having a boots-on-the-ground approach. “I had no idea canvassing would be such an important part of campaigning and politics, but it provided an opportunity to have people’s voices be heard.”
Patchett was unable to attend the election night celebration because she was volunteering at a poll station. But she expects she will have another opportunity in the future. “So long as there is a candidate I support, I will absolutely volunteer on a future local campaign.”
Unlike Lewis, Zhang and Patchett, Bishop’s graduate (now Stanford student) Lark Wang, served on a campaign before, but is “just exploring” her political interests. “I volunteered with the Scott Peters election campaign in 2012, and enjoyed that environment. The people on the Bry campaign were wonderful and invested in teaching the interns different lessons,” she said. But the City Council campaign was different for the 18-year-old because “I really care about City Council. A lot of people don’t realize how much the people we elect to City Council impact our day-to-day life.”
Wang had to report to classes in September, so she was only able to intern over the summer. “I won’t ever forget the primary election, when Barbara almost won, because we saw that (rival candidate) Ray Ellis had raised so much more money and they projected Barbara would not even make it to November ... it reaffirmed for me how important it is to have good people around you.
“If you build a good team, are committed to your platform and work hard, great things are possible.”