Stars Ask Students To 'rock'

This story was written by Stephanie Schomer, Daily Collegian
Students got 'real' last night at Rock the Vote, engaging in a forum of discussion led by former Real World cast members Robin Hibbard and Syrus Yarbrough.

About 100 students gathered in Hub Alumni Hall last night to talk about the upcoming presidential election, focusing on issues that most affect college students. Hibbard and Yarbrough stressed the importance of the youth vote, encouraging students to educate themselves about politics.

"There has to be a motivation to vote. With a topic like this, you should always be present -- always be aware of what your peers are thinking," Yarbrough said. "Especially with the current state of the economy -- you're students -- you're here to get a job and make money, so this should really be a year to state your opinion."

Students voiced concern about the war in Iraq, the Electoral College process, healthcare, taxes and the cost of education.

"My biggest concern is the war," Skylar Dunklebarger (sophomore-business) said. "I'd like to see shorter deployments because my boyfriend is going over there in January. If it was possible, I'd love to see a quick exit, but I don't think it's an option at this point."

Yarbrough said the issue he is most concerned about is health care.

"Last year, I sent my mother in for a routine check up, trying to get her some health insurance. It comes back that she's in stage four cancer," he said. "There's a problem in this country that people are excluded from medical care. I'm happy to be here in America, but I am thankful and lucky that I have the ability to grab 100 Gs and take care of my mom. But most college grads come out making $27,000 a year."

Julie Balchunas (sophomore-elementary education) said she went to Rock the Vote to learn about the election, but the celebrity endorsement was an extra motivator.

"I wanted to get more involved and see the Real World cast members," she said. "I am personally an environment freak, so I'd like to see the government make heavy changes concerning that."

Balchunas added that she is not yet registered but will be by the election.

Represent Penn State, which registered students to vote yesterday afternoon in the Hub and at last night's forum, said the organization got just over 100 students to register as a result of Rock the Vote.

"A lot of students are even switching from independent to parties so they can vote in the primary," said Trey Thomas, Represent Penn State chairman.

Hibbard said that the youth has a lot of power as long as people exercise their right to vote.

"When people say their vote doesn't count or their vote doesn't matter -- our entire presidency was decided by Florida, so it does matter," Hibbard said.

The pair encouraged students to look to different media outlets to get the most objective information to educate themselves, which they said is the most important part of voting.

"The American media is going to feed to you guys exactly what they want you to think," Yarbrough said. "On different networks, you can tell who they want to win. I was overseas and got to check out the BBC. Look into international media. It's a lot less black and white than the picture the American media paints."
© 2008 Daily Collegian via U-WIRE