Students put their passions into politics

Nicole Stempak

Freshman hopes to turn Ohio blue in November

Stephen Marks, freshman business and psychology major, plans to spend Election Day getting others to vote.

“I’m going to be calling every single person in my contact list,” he said. “I’ll be driving people over to the rec center.

“I plan on being involved. That is going to be my priority for the day.”

Marks, a member of the College Democrats, estimates he spends two to three hours per week volunteering for Barack Obama and local candidates.

He helped register voters and sign people up to vote early for the Ohio for Change Campaign, he called for state Rep. Mike Moran and he canvassed for Sheriff Dave Doak.

Even before Marks set foot on campus, he planned to get involved in a couple student organizations.

“I wasn’t very involved in high school, and that was something I regretted because I felt there was a lot of people out there, a lot of interesting people, that I missed the opportunity to meet,” he said.

In the first week of classes, Marks said he saw chalking on campus for a College Democrats meeting. He wrote the information down and has attended meetings ever since.

Still, Marks said he doesn’t know if other students are as concerned about the election.

“They know generally things about the election, but I don’t think there is enough interest in terms of people that are actually willing to get involved,” he said. “People that are willing to go phone bank.

“People that are willing to canvass. People that are really willing to sit down and discuss the issues. I don’t really see enough of that.”

College Democrats’ President Jared M. Matthews said he has volunteered with Marks both canvassing off-campus and starting conversations with students on-campus about the election.

“Not only has Stephen Marks shown an immense amount of enthusiasm for Barack Obama, but he has also been constantly on campus and out in the community forfeiting his free time and efforts to elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States of America,” he said.

Marks said he will continue to emphasize the importance of voting come Election Day.

“I really want that to be the number one priority for the day for students and for people in general,” he said. “I want everyone to be tuned into C-SPAN or CNN or whatever station they choose to be watching as the results come in.”

Senior puts his schedule aside for John McCain

It’s 3:15 p.m. Wednesday and senior economics major Stephen Ontko plans to spend the next hour-and-a-half talking on the phone.

Ontko, a member of College Republicans and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater, is phone banking for John McCain at the McCain-Palin Victory Office in Akron.

“It’s really convenient for me to volunteer here even though I have to drive,” he said. “I just come whenever I’m able to.”

Ontko began volunteering for the campaign in his hometown of Toledo and continues to volunteer at the McCain offices in Akron. He first got involved when he attended a College Republicans meeting at the University of Toledo this spring.

“I went to a College Republicans meeting at UT because they had school while we were off for spring break,” he said. “Mark Wagoner (incumbent senator for the Ohio Senate) was at the College Republicans meeting while I was there, and his campaign in Lucas County referred me to the John McCain campaign.”

He said he spent the rest of the summer phone banking at least three times a week.

Now that school has resumed, Ontko usually makes phone calls at least once a week. But he said he found other avenues for volunteering, such as College Republican-sponsored events and local Republican Party events.

“I volunteer, number one, because it’s my duty as an American to fight for my principles,” he said. “I believe my principles will make this country stronger, a better place to live and, most importantly, because it’s the moral thing to do.”

Anastasiya Spytsya, vice president of College Republicans, said Ontko serves as a model for other members.

“He’s been doing so much for us,” she said. “He’s been representing the group really well. He’s always so busy with school, but he finds time to volunteer for John McCain.”

Ontko said volunteering while in school has been a challenge and that his grades are suffering.

“The election season doesn’t go on forever,” he said. “Hopefully, then I can focus more on school.”

Contact student politics reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected].