Democracy Fellows Phuong Nguyen, Sabrina Wicker and Hannah Jackson at the Propel Ohio conference
Democracy Fellows doing civic engagement work with CWRUVotes

Meet three students who champion civic engagement at Case Western Reserve

Ohio’s general election is today (Nov. 7)—and countless Case Western Reserve University students are encouraging others to make their voices heard at the polls. Among them are the university’s three Democracy Fellows—a position through the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning (CCEL)  in which they register voters, provide voter educational materials, and break down voting barriers within the campus community.

Photo of Democracy Fellows Phuong Nguyen, Sabrina Wicker and Hannah Jackson
Democracy Fellows Phuong Nguyen, Sabrina Wicker and Hannah Jackson

“We discovered that a student organization under CCEL would be the best format to not only get engaged with the student body—but also to work closely with administrators for different initiatives that create structural changes,” said Phuong Nguyen, a Democracy Fellow and fourth-year student majoring in biochemistry.

Along with Nguyen, the university’s Democracy Fellows also include third-year cognitive science and sociology student Sabrina Wicker and fourth-year business management and English student Hannah Jackson. 

The Daily caught up with them to learn more about their experiences being Democracy Fellows—and how students can get involved with their partner organization, CWRUVotes

Read on to discover more about the organizations—and find out more about voting in Tuesday’s election, including how to sign up for a shuttle ride to the polls

Sabrina Wicker 

This election day, Sabrina Wicker hopes all new voters who may feel unheard remember that politicians, local officials, and criminal justice officials cannot ignore the power of the people. 

“When we all start flooding the polls with the issues and policies that most impact us,” she added, “we will make it impossible for our representatives to ignore our concerns if they want to keep their jobs.”

Photo of Nguyen, Wicker and Jackson working at a voter registration table.
Nguyen, Wicker and Jackson working at a voter registration table

Learn more from Wicker.

Q: What kinds of programming have you helped with in your time as a Democracy Fellow?

One of my favorite experiences that I’ve had in my fellowship has been hosting Propel Ohio which is a student voting summit run by Senator Sherrod Brown’s office that connects civically engaged students across the state. I was able to be emcee when we hosted it in 2022, and I served on a panel for administrators who work to engage young voters this year. It’s not only been incredible to hear the Senator speak two years ago, but I’ve really enjoyed meeting new people and hearing from others in the civic engagement sphere that I may not have otherwise met.

Q: Why do you believe it’s important to vote?

When hear about the reasons that students don’t vote, we generally hear two main reasons why: (1) they believe that the voting process (keeping track of deadlines, filling out forms, doing research for local races especially, etc.) is especially difficult for students, or (2) they believe that the current political system is not representative of their values, beliefs, identities, etc. Relating to the first reason, the primary mission for us at CCEL, via CWRUVotes, is to break down the many pieces that are a part of the voting process to give students full ballot access. For the second, as voter advocates, our primary goal in advocating for ballot access is to allow voters to be able to turn out to the polls and make the political system work for them. We know that there is always power in numbers, even in the face of voter suppression or other systemic discrimination.

Q: How can people get involved with either the fellows or CWRUVotes?

CWRUVotes is a student organization that operates under CCEL and is led by us, as fellows, to help our peers navigate the voting process. If you are interested in joining the CWRUVotes team and helping students vote, email to get trained on how to educate your peers about the voting process. Otherwise, you can help us spread our mission by showing up and bringing your friends to our events, directing voting questions that you or your friends have to CCEL, and following the @CWRUVotes Instagram page where we announce dates, deadlines, and events.

Phuong Nguyen

Phuong Nguyen believes the right to vote is a powerful tool to create change that a person wants to see.

“By voting, a person is voicing their stance on policies that not only affect their own life, but also those around them—that’s why it is such a powerful component of our democracy,” Nguyen explained.

Learn more from Nguyen. 

Q: Why did you want to get involved with the Democracy Fellows program? 

I am a bit of an unconventional Democracy Fellow, in that I am actually only a greencard holder and not an official citizen, so I do not have the right to vote. Therefore, as I cannot have a say in policies that affect my life directly while others can but do not exercise their voting rights, I am motivated to participate in initiatives like this program to make changes, big or small, on these discrepancies.

Q: What kind of programming have you helped with?

CWRUVotes started off with the format of weekly tabling at the beginning, and I was mainly alternating with other fellows in that role. Thanks to our growth and the help from CCEL, tabling has now been divided among many volunteers helping out with our organization, and therefore I have focused more on events organization and collaboration with other students’ or Cleveland organizations. For example, one of our most recent events, AbsenTEA party, was a collaboration with UPB Co-Programming.

Hannah Jackson

Hannah Jackson believes there are many different barriers to voting—even just a busy college schedule.

“CWRUVotes and the Democracy Fellows team work to show students that not only is it possible to be civically engaged as a college student,” Jackson said, “but it is so important to make your voice heard.” 

Learn more from Jackson. 

Q: Why did you want to get involved with the Democracy Fellows program?

I worked the polls in high school and really enjoyed seeing members from my community come to support initiatives they cared about. I wanted a way to continue with voting-focused civic engagement on campus and the Democracy Fellows team was the perfect place!

Q: What kind of programming have you helped with in your time as a fellow?
I’ve helped with a variety of events as a Democracy Fellow, but found that I enjoy working with students during our voter registration tabling events the most. I like interacting with students and seeing how excited they are to vote.

Q: Why do you believe it’s important to vote?

Voting is one of the best ways for you to shape the world that you want to see. By being a consistent voter, you’re working to make tangible change in your community.