Connecticut college students are getting a behind-the-scenes look, as they experience the Democratic National Convention you won’t see on television.
Four students and one professor from Quinnipiac University have already been in Philadelphia in the week leading up to the convention as a part of a two-week, six-credit program that consists of a intensive, political science course about conventions, followed by field work.
John Foti, 22, of Southington, is a political science major at American University. He will also be attending the convention as an employee with Service Employees International Union (SEIU), working on several convention events and supporting general government staff.
“I’m most excited for Thursday night to take in the fact that the first woman in the history of the United States [will accept a major party’s nomination]. That is very momentous,” Foti said. “Having grown up with a multitude of strong women and the prospect that if I have a daughter one day, she can be anything she wants to be.”
Scott McLean, professor of political science at Quinnipiac University, said students had to apply for the six-credit course; those with strong academic achievements and no behavioral issues were selected to attend.
From Quinnipiac, those selected include Ayah Galal of Prospect, Joseph Iasso of Port Jefferson, N.Y., Brendan Labanara of Branford and Jack Onofrio of Portsmouth, R.I.
Galal, 19, is a double minor in political science and journalism. She said she found out about the program through Quinnipiac’s political science department and was interested in an opportunity that not only relates to what she’s studying, but also to what she hopes to do in the future.
“I hope to become a reporter covering politics. I’m excited I’ll be working in the media news area and spending time with reporters and see how they report on national events, improve my writing skills and become a better journalist as well,” said Galal.
The course students are required to take in their first week is an intensive, fast-paced overview of the process and purpose of political conventions taught by political science professor Meena Bose from Hofstra University. Keynote speakers are also brought in to speak on different aspects of the convention including event organizers, security, media and other political science figures.
“I learned a lot more about the presidential campaign and the way the American political system works,” said Galal.
Their second week is spent doing field work in different areas, such as the media, throughout the week of the convention, working tirelessly for up to 12 hours a day.
“They don’t really get career development, but they get a look at this convention no one else could get. They also get to interact with many important people in the party,” McLean said.
McLean said the experience of being at the convention gives them a deeper perspective of what they’ve learned and already know about the candidates. This allows them to ask critical questions, ultimately giving them a broader understanding of democracy.
“They’re given an opportunity to find out what they’re capable of doing,” McLean said. “Some find it challenging, but they all discover what they’re capable of and that they can rise to any challenge. They do some growing up in this.”
Southington’s John Foti contributed. He is attending the Democratic National Convention as an employee of Service Employees Inter-national Union.