By Michelle Davey
When Meredith Tucker and Zach Noble chose Ohio University, it wasn't for the chance to be in on a conference call with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama or to introduce Chelsea Clinton, daughter of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. It just worked out that those are some of the perks.
You can hardly walk across campus or turn on the news without being reminded that Ohio's primary election is not only imminent, but increasingly important on the national scene. And Tucker and Noble are among a growing number of Ohio students who are stepping up and reaching out to support their chosen contenders.
Noble is president and founder of Students for Hillary Clinton, a group of close to 60 students who have been active distributing flyers and yard signs to fellow "HillBlazers" and manning an information booth on Court Street. They also were instrumental in bringing former first daughter Chelsea Clinton to campus last week.
"I knew that Chelsea likes to speak to college students -- she relates to them very well, even though she is a little bit older than most of us now," Noble said. "She's more in touch with the issues that affect our demographic: the price of college and graduate school, the state of the economy as we look for jobs, the cost of health care."
Likewise, Noble believes that he and his fellow college students relate to Chelsea in a unique way. "We're of the age where we grew up watching her grow up in the White House," he said.
Noble, who introduced Chelsea Clinton along with fellow Students for Hillary member and event organizer Sarah Kilbarger Thursday at Baker Center, got a taste of the limelight himself that day. After working quickly with members of the campaign staff and Baker staffers to coordinate the event, Noble found himself in front of the cameras as well.
"I kind of froze up," Noble said, recounting a taped interview with an NBC affiliate out of Huntington, W.Va. "It was like the third interview I had done that day, but the rest were for media here on campus. I was a little nervous about that one."
Media interviews are rare for students who offer up their free time to campaign for a presidential candidate. Most work is not only done behind the scenes, it's not all that glamorous.
Tucker, an Ohio University sophomore, has spent most of her free time in recent weeks running from class to the former Stimpson Avenue thrift store that was converted into local campaign headquarters for Barack Obama. After volunteering for John Kerry's 2004 campaign while in high school -- and not even old enough to vote, Tucker knew she wanted to get involved with the Obama campaign.
"There is a different energy about this campaign, and I think it comes from Barack Obama himself," she said.
Serving as a volunteer for Obama put her in prime position to step into a paid internship with the campaign's regional staff. She joins a handful of other Athens campus students in such a role. Tucker has focused on voter registration, informational "dorm storms" and the Million Door canvass event. "It's a crazy schedule," she said, "but you just have to believe in it."
Like his opposition, Obama also has his own support group on campus, Students for Barack Obama, led by Elizabeth Clark. Tables have been set up at Baker Center throughout the quarter to distribute information about Obama and his stance on the issues. Members also have been working on voter registration and getting absentee voters their ballots.
Clark has been speaking with other students about the issues and to find out what traits they want in a candidate, she said. "I think young people are looking for a candidate they believe in, and I think that many will see that Obama is that candidate," she said.
While a great many students are wearing their choices on their lapels and backs in the form of T-shirts, buttons and stickers, some are keeping quiet, at least for now. Among them: The College Democrats and the College Republicans.
While some members of the groups have individually endorsed candidates, neither of the organizations will officially promote any candidates until the conventions have sealed the deal on each party's nomination.
For Democrats, unifying the party is an important priority. "We're really stressing party unity right now," said President Robert Dorans. Although the race is very heated between Clinton and Obama, Dorans said it is important for Democrats to remember they are all on the same side. "The candidate will need support from all Democrats," he said.
The College Republicans also are biding their time, according to Vice President Emily Mullin. "In the fall, we will come together to endorse the nominee," she said, adding that for now, members are volunteering on campaigns individually.
But both groups also have been active in holding registration drives and distributing general information to encourage students to vote in Tuesday's primary.