While Emily Keller-Coffey ’18 was on campus over the summer, she volunteered with a Hillary Clinton campaign phone bank.
That was on a Wednesday. On Thursday, she applied for a job with the Hillary for America.
“Then I started withdrawing from Lafayette on Friday,” she said.
Keller-Coffey and Sara Hayet ’18 have both taken off their junior fall semester to work for the Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party ticket in November’s elections. The list of candidates includes the potentially first female US senator for Pennsylvania, Katie McGinty, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“Pennsylvania is a swing state, and Northampton a swing county,” Keller-Coffey said. “Everything little thing we do makes a difference.”
Keller-Coffey and Hayet work as “grassroots organizers” from the Hillary for America supporters base in downtown Bethlehem. As full-time employees, they say their job is all about making connections.
“We work really hard to work with the community members, make connections and build an organization that can kind of campaign for itself,” said Keller-Coffey, who is originally from Millbrook, N.Y. “So our goal essentially is to organize ourselves out of the job.”
“It’s like empowering the community to really get involved in this election and make a movement,” Hayet, from Asbury Park, N.J., said.
Hayet and Keller-Coffey work on a team with high schools students, other college students, volunteers, interns and retirees. They work seven days a week on regular pay with benefits.
Both women drew their motivation to work long hours until the election in November from personal experiences.
“I’m a government and law and women and gender studies major, so taking a break to elect the first female president kind of fit into what I’m studying very well,” Hayet said.
“I am a bisexual woman, and I can still get fired in Pennsylvania for loving who I love, and that’s absurd,” she added. “And the democratic platform addresses that.”
Keller-Coffey noted that for her it was a chance to escape her “bubble” and do something “impactful.”
“Coming to Lafayette, I really saw and met and connected with a lot of people who did not grow up with the advantages that I was given,” said Keller-Coffey, an environmental studies major. “This is the most important thing I can be doing.”
Keller-Coffey has worked in campaigning and fundraising before for Lafayette’s donation-fueled annual fund. Hayet has done earlier volunteering work with Planned Parenthood and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s campaign while at Lafayette College. Even so, each find that they are learning new tactics for outreach in a political context.
“One of the big things that has surprised me and been really exciting to learn are conversation models that you’ll have on the phone, or different ways that they plan who we’ll be calling or what we’ll be doing,” Keller-Coffey said. “To kind of channel my energy, instead of just screaming around.”
Keller-Coffey began a couple weeks before Hayet, but they both said the most frustrating thing about the job is encountering what they call “apathy.”
“Something that frustrates me is when people don’t want to vote,” Keller-Coffey said, “because it’s such a privilege.”
The Hillary for America campaign in Pennsylvania is funded by Democratic candidates for office. Both campaigners said that they have not encountered campaigns supporting Republican or third-party candidates. It is not known whether other Lafayette students have taken off the semester to work for the Republican and third-party election tickets.
Despite having to work without weekends, both women seem to be able to keep up the stamina for even the late-night meetings.
“Honestly this is probably the most important election of our lifetime,” Hayet said. “There are issues at stake that are going to affect real peoples’ lives. Sitting on the sidelines wasn’t an option.”
The Lafayette expresses no editorial bias in upcoming political elections. This story is meant to profile Lafayette College students’ experiences.