NCCU SGA President Leads Students to Campus Polls – GDN Exclusive “A Call to Colors” Vol. II Part VIIby Cash Michaels, GDN Contributing Writer March 29, 2019
DURHAM, N.C. – Brandon Hedgebeth, Student Government Association president at North Carolina Central University, like proud Eagles before him, knows the value of student civic engagement.
A High Point native, Hedgebeth, 21, is a rising senior who is not only currently SGA president (he took over as vice president when the original stepped down) until April 30th, but will be running for the position next year.
From the moment he stepped on campus for a tour before attending, until now, NCCU “felt like family,” and he knew that he belonged.
“People [here] are always so helpful, and show you things you didn’t know about, he told GDN. “As SGA president, I want that same culture for other people who come.”
“NCCU is special.”
And thus, when it comes to involving Eagle students in nonpartisan civic engagement, Hedgebeth, relishes his role as a student leader. Special activities, featuring food and drink, are held for both voter registration and education, where students are able to ask questions about voting in primaries and general elections.
Videos about voting are played in the Student Union, he says, reaching students while they’re not in class.
Hedgebeth adds that the campus works in collaboration with Common Cause North Carolina as part of its “HBCU Student Action Alliance.”
The program works with students from historically black colleges and universities across the state, “…giving them the tools to become the next generation of leaders in our state and nation.”
Hedgebeth points towards voter registration drives – both on campus and “door-to-door” in the community.
Working with Greek organizations on campus like Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. also enhances student civic engagement efforts, he says, like creating instructional videos.
And probably the most important civic engagement activity is the “March to the Polls,” the SGA president says, primarily because, unlike other HBCUs where students must either take a bus or march to voting precinct located blocks, if not miles away from campus, NCCU students are able to cast their ballots right there on campus.
“We get the band, we fellowship, and then we have the Greeks come out too,” Hedgebeth says. “We all go to the polls together throughout that entire day.”
There is shuttle service for those who are unable to walk a distance, he says.
There is also a nonpartisan committee – Political and Civic Engagement.
“It works throughout the entire academic year to inform students on political issues and other things that are going on,” Hedgebeth says.
Student voter registration is not where the SGA president thinks that it should be, but he believes that “we’re moving in the right direction.”
“The voter turnout this year, from last year, improved dramatically,” Hedgebeth said, noting that voting on campus went up from 300 in an election two years ago, to approximately 1200 last year.
“I think that will continue to improve in the years to come.”
NCCU is part of “A Call to Colors” HBCU Coalition. HBCU student government associations (SGAs) would be asked to make civic engagement pledges, coupled with twice-a-year student rallies promoting civic engagement and student organizations.
Ultimately, in the leadup to elections, SGAs would convene student leaders of Greek, NAACP and other organizations to plan strategies targeting voter registration and mobilization. Black Student Unions (BSUs) would be urged to replicate these efforts.
GDN recommends that all HBCU SGAs and Black Student Unions (BSUs) incorporate the following in their efforts:
- Standing civic engagement/A Call to Colors committees for SGAs and Black Student Unions (BSUs)
- Students volunteering 8,16, 24 hours or more per election cycle
- Earn up to 200 hours/4 years credit for civic engagement
- Do outreach to Greeks, other student organizations and other schools