Only 20 years old, Amanda Parks '10 has taken the skills learned in her communications classes and put together a campaign to get a new generation into the legislature, as she runs against 39-year-old Democratic incumbent Kim Fawcett.
Parks is running for Connecticut state representative in the 133rd Assembly District in Fairfield and Westport, which includes the Fairfield University campus.
"We are the future, so why not start making progress now?" Parks asked, disputing her critics, who have questioned why a 20-year-old would even want to run for state government.
Parks, a junior at the University and life-long town resident, is trying to change the face of Connecticut politics. She is a non-traditional candidate running a non-traditional campaign and emphasizes green technology. Parks is not the typical Republican, traditionally the party of older white men.
"I think this is quite the stereotype," said Parks.
"There are many intelligent women in this party, on a local and national level. Just look at Sarah Palin!"
Wayne Parks, Amanda's father and campaign manager, believes his daughter's motivation for running for office started around the family dinner table, when Amanda was in elementary school.
"How to make the world a better place is the main dinner table discussion that Amanda was brought up on," he said. He also noted that his terms on Fairfield's legislative body strongly influenced Amanda's interest in politics as well.
Parks' desire to run stems from her conviction that the Connecticut economy could prosper as in years past if the legislature would refocus its approach to energy production.
Parks said that she believes the state economy would thrive if the state legislature would implement policies that would make Connecticut the center for "green" technology, just as Silicon Valley was the center of technology for years.
"The way to generate revenue is to bring the cutting edge manufacturers back to our state sustaining our economy for decades by supplying the worldwide demand for wind, hydro, solar and fuel cell production," said Parks.
By bringing more jobs to Connecticut, she believes the state can "stop the 'brain drain' to New York," which would eliminate some transportation congestion.
As part of her initiative to bring reform to state politics, she has turned down state funding for her campaign and has asked her supporters to simply place a white ribbon on their car antennas or in front of their homes instead of lawn signs or TV ads.
"Thecurrentlegislaturevoteditself $5 milliontospendontheirowncampaigns," she said of her decision not to accept state funding. "This is not reform. This is money that could have been spent on health care or heating peoples' homes this winter."
No matter what Parks' message, her opponent, Fawcett, maintains that handling duties in Hartford, which are most demanding during May and June, will coincide with Parks' obligation to school during finals period.
Fawcett has also expressed that Parks is already unable to completely fulfill the position of a public office, having declined to participate in either of the two town forums planned for the campaign season.
"When you run for public office, you have to participate in discussion of the issues," she said.
Parks sees being a student as being the same as other candidates who are lawyers, accountants or stay-at-home moms, like Fawcett, who are representing the people in Hartford.
Connecticut still has a citizen legislature, which means that no one is a career politician, limiting the amount of time that actually has t be spent in Hartford.
The Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Tom Pellegrino agreed that being a student while running for public office is quite the challenge.
"Itisaremarkableobjectiveand aspiration," he said."As with anything that requires time, energy and commitment, I would imagine this will present its own challenges, but hopefully there will also be rewards as well."
Fawcett says that Parks' ability to speak to her own generation, on a campus that falls in their district, may be an advantage. She even believes that Parks could have a "Palin-effect" on the local GOP.
Until November, there is no way to determine if her youth and message will encourage Fairfield residents to send her to Hartford.
In the meantime, Parks will go to class, babysit, and spend as much time as possible getting to know her potential delegates, most of whom open their doors to Parks with a friendly smile.
"I am incredibly impressed that a student is running," said Fawcett. "I can only admire that."