Valencia College Prepares Students for Election


Serena Mack

Valencia reminds students to register online

Serena Mack, Reporter

The events of 2020 have not only changed the way Valencia College educates its students. Faculty and staff have also reimagined the way they promote civic engagement during this election.

Before COVID-19 changed lives, Valencia encouraged voter participation by hosting on-campus election events and voter registration vendors. According to the college’s vice president of student affairs, Isis Artze-Vega, there were even plans for the Lake Nona campus to become a polling location this fall — another plan derailed by the coronavirus.

Adjusting for student safety has created an obstacle in reaching students with election information’s traditional ways. Prior to COVID-19, students could see events, banners, and vendors while traveling across campus. This forced faculty and staff to begin implementing new strategies to promote student voting.

The most noticeable attempt may have been a Canvas notification that was active from Sept. 24 to Oct. 4. The registration countdown served as both a notice and resource because it included the link to the Florida Department of State’s website and the registration deadline. Vibhutiben Parambhai, a Valencia sophomore who used the link, said, “I’m glad (the process) was easy for me to comprehend because I was kind of nervous.”

This was the type of outcome Artze-Vega hoped for when she asked faculty and student-affairs leaders challenging questions recently — such as, “What are we doing to promote voting as one form of civic engagement, and can we be more effective if we do it together?… Would we consider a campus announcement?”

Another tool being used this semester to evoke action among students is Zoom. The video conferencing platform was used by The Valencia African Heritage Committee (VAHC) “to create informed voters,” according to Professor Danielle Strong-Robinson Smith, one of the event coordinators. She also stated that the intent of these virtual events is “to empower (young adults) so they see the value in their votes and voices.”

Last month, as a part of the Peace and Justice Institute’s “Global Peace Week,” VAHC hosted the voting event, “Know Your Rights.” The hosts informed their fifty, enthusiastic participants of ways to prepare for the election and provided them with basic ballot information. Additionally, participants learned fun facts, discussed hindrances that some minorities and young adults still face when voting, and ways they can overcome such obstacles.

Similarly, Valencia Library hosted the virtual event series “Becoming an Informed Voter,” which was organized by Regina Seguin, a West Campus librarian. Seguin said, “We want to educate others on how to do that research … to gather information so that when you vote you can feel really confident in your vote.”

To accomplish this, hosts at each event provided a bipartisan LibGuide to participants, which totaled to 418. They also demonstrated how to use the resources and explained voting requirements. The tremendous turn out for this series of events was, in part, due to the support of professors who encouraged their students to attend; some even offered to give participants extra credit.

Not only did the efforts of the Valencia Library and VAHC result in high attendance, they also managed to engage with the students through Zoom’s chat boxes. At each event participants responded to surveys, answered questions, and asked their own using this tool. There were even several “Wows!” in response to “fun facts” and many “Thank yous!” when hosts finished speaking.

In addition to these events, there have been several other virtual activities, like the Peace and Justice Institute’s “#Votes4All” series of events and VAHC’s “Voting During a Pandemic Town Hall.” More voting events are also planned for October. Details are available on Valencia’s “Events” webpage.