Geneseo Taskforce members impact student voter turnout

The recent work communication major junior Sarah Jane Phillips and mathematics major senior Katelyn Tzavelis completed with the Geneseo Taskforce of Voter Registration and Engagement highlights the numerous achievements in their Geneseo career. Their inspiring efforts to educate Geneseo students on their voting rights led to an 82 percent voter turnout for the presidential election. Phillips initially struggled with finding her place in Geneseo. In her freshman year, she joined the Geneseo Opportunity for Leadership Development program, which piqued her interest and kept her on the Geneseo campus. Shortly afterward, Phillips rushed her sorority Sigma Kappa.

“[Sigma Kappa has] been a life changing experience for me,” Phillips said. “It’s given me the confidence to be myself here.”

These two organizations allowed Phillips to shine on campus and to find her place over these past few years.

“I just love this college, I love this campus and I love the people here,” Phillips said. “I want to just give back and help as much as I can to make a difference.”

Tzavelis also initially had trouble getting used to small-town life in Geneseo after living in Brooklyn all her life. Her involvement on campus and her different interests have led to success that can be accredited to her dedication to the GOLD program.

Tzavelis completed every GOLD certificate in her freshman and sophomore years and became a GOLD mentor her junior year. Through the GOLD program, Tzavelis found her niche.

“I finally found my place and the people that I related most to,” Tzavelis said. “I credit the GOLD program for my happiness and time here at Geneseo.”

The GOLD program at Geneseo features workshops for eight different certificates on topics from diversity to professional development. Both Tzavelis and Phillips attribute their success in Geneseo from their beginnings in the GOLD program.

“I have really become a leader and who I am today and found my true passions because of the GOLD program,” Phillips said.

Associate Dean of Leadership and Service and Director of the GOLD Program Tom Matthews created the Taskforce in the fall of 2015, which allowed Tzavelis and Phillips to work on the voter registration project.

They both struggled to get people to help with the project in the beginning. A lot of the work started out slow, such as educating students about their rights as voters and helping them to register to vote. While they pitched a lot of ideas, many of them were also shut down.

The main idea of the Taskforce is to educate students about their voting rights and registration. The Taskforce educated Geneseo students about local candidates and even coordinated a “Meet and Greet” with the local candidates of Geneseo in the MacVittie College Union.

Through these different educational tactics, Tzavelis and Philips achieved their main goal, which Tzavelis said was to “educate and get everyone to exercise their right as a citizen and vote so their voices are heard.”

On the day of the election, Phillips and Tzavelis helped coordinate the voting booths at Kuhl Gymnasium, working from 5 a.m.-10 p.m. Through their extensive campaigning and educating students on registration and voting, they had an 82 percent voter turnout. Additionally, the voting process itself was very efficient.

“It’s a huge, huge success,” Tzavelis said. “Out of 1025 registered students, 984 voted. It solidified that our efforts and hard work wasn’t for nothing.”

While both Phillips and Tzavelis have made their mark on the Geneseo campus, their plans for the future shine just as bright as their successes here.

Tzavelis is graduating a semester early in December 2016. She will be attending graduate school in Michigan for a year to earn a degree in data analytics.

“It’s not about what your career choice is,” Tzavelis said. “You can have so many different passions in life … I can use data analytics in politics or in anything that can put everything together.”

Phillips currently works as an intern at Livingston County and takes interest in civic engagement as well as state and city government. Through working for the Taskforce, Phillips has realized the importance of giving back to your country.

“Hopefully I’ll be the first female president,” Phillips said.