Students are attending rallies, volunteering and even donating money in record numbers. Some are even reading the newspaper from time to time.
Barack Obama has catalyzed an outpouring of activism, even on campuses in the conservative enclave of Colorado Springs. Here are three students sacrificing time and energy to help the Campaign for Change. And if you've been following this race from the sidelines, maybe they'll motivate you to get your hands dirty.
School: Colorado College
Concentrations: Political science, history and African diaspora studies
Harris has been volunteering as an intern for the Obama campaign all summer, logging 30 to 40 hours weekly. She works mainly on voter registration, which she calls "a crucial part of the election." At CC, she's also co-chair of the Black Student Union.
"I think it's been a while since this country has had something or someone to really believe in," she says. "I think we, as Americans, are going through a really hard time right now, and as a country we need someone to get our faith in America back on track. I think Obama can be that person."
Although she sometimes sees apathy, Harris says students in general are doing a lot that goes unacknowledged. She also sees Obamamania sweeping CC.
"It's amazing," she says. "I think college is the best place for people to talk politics and get involved. Obama is inspiring people to do that."
School: Pikes Peak Community College
Concentration: Political science
Dinardo was walking through campus one day when he saw one of Obama's books, The Audacity of Hope, on the dashboard of a car in the parking lot. He then noticed a "W '04" sticker on the back of the car.
"People are starting to think," he says. "Obama has people interested."
For Dinardo, that's translated to standing in front of stores like Whole Foods with a clipboard and a pen, registering voters. He says that now, more than ever, students should be getting involved.
"We're at a time when we're at war and the cost of living continues to go up," he says. "Students should be aware because that will eventually mean tuition going up, as well. We need to inform ourselves now, follow the issues as well as we can, so we can make the right choice when the time comes."
School: University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Concentration: Psychology and women's studies
Along with friend and UCCS grad student Matt Motyl, Warren is working to start a Students for Barack Obama group on campus. The paperwork is in, and they're just waiting for school approval.
"Our goal for the group is basically to organize students," she says. "We want to have them volunteer with the campaign, go out and register people to vote, and also to spread awareness about Obama and what it is he stands for."
Because of issues like the war, the energy crisis, the economy and climate change, Warren sees this as a crucial moment in history.
"These are issues we will face for generations to come," she says. "I don't want my sons to inherit this war and be forced to fight in it. Obama strikes me as someone who takes these issues seriously and would actively work to address them."
Shuffle and grow
By Maddie Rogers Undergraduates today are careless.
The planet provides us with hops for beer, trees for textbooks and fuel for our Daddy-bought Beamers, allowing us to indulge in whatever we want, to excess. In 20 years, we'll really contend with greenhouse gases and peak oil, but who cares when there's a wild kegger to plan this weekend?
"As a student, you have to realize that decades from now, we will be the 'doers' of society ... and we can start working on things now which will influence our peers to make responsible choices," says Alhanna Schaaf, a junior at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Schaaf is among a group of students at UCCS and Colorado College who are proving that (some) college students do care and, in fact, worry about the future of our planet.
Schaaf is a member of UCCS' Students for Environmental Awareness and Sustainability organization and is the recycling coordinator and conservation education assistant inside the recently created Office of Sustainability. Since she promotes recycling among her peers and toils to ensure that "every garbage can on campus is paired with a recycling bin," she admits to getting frustrated when she finds garbage bins "filled with cans, while the recycling bin next to it will have just a couple in it."
But Schaaf insists that student interest in the environment is growing. She cites the recent creation of a sustainability minor and an overwhelmingly student-supported fee which will install solar panels on university buildings in the next five years.
"I meet students from all walks of life who have goals," she says. "Everyone is passionate about something."
One such thing is CC's entirely student-run farm (pictured below). On a morning tour, farm intern Sophia Maravell proudly points to beets, pole beans, chard and broccoli. The garden is bountiful considering that it's only been at its current location behind President Richard Celeste's residence for less than a year. Interns, says Maravell, are responsible for "planting, harvesting, selling food, weeding, grant-writing, plus all of the community outreach stuff."
And the chickens?
"Oh yes! Those are my independent study project."
Not only does the farm provide local, pesticide-free food which is sold in markets, at campus stands and to campus dining services but it offers accessibility in the form of cut-and-dried labor. There is no pressure to debate with high-minded environmental philosophers or "walk into a meeting full of people you don't know," says Maravell. "The farm isn't an abstract concept the labor required is understood by everyone."
The interns also aim to engage the community outside of campus. They regularly host area schoolchildren on the farm, who help plant small crops and learn about the benefits of local, organically grown food.
"I'd say that only about 15 percent of our student population is very active on campus," says Maravell, "and 85 percent are involved on a tertiary level. ...
"It's hard on a social level to draw in the 'non-hippie' stereotype. But the farm has been the most successful venture I've been involved with here, and we are really interested in devoting ourselves to involving other social groups."