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Student Delegates Part Of Wisconsin Delegation At DNC

This story was written by Liz Coen and Mallory Jones, The Marquette Tribune

While most students are trudging their way to class for the start of the fall semester, there are some that have opted to pound the pavement in Denver instead.

They are youth delegates; everyday students from all over the nation that made their way to the Democratic National Convention to cast their official vote to nominate Illinois Senator Barack Obama for the presidency.

Marquette's own Jason Rae, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and Democratic superdelegate, has been heading the force to bring the college perspective to the national convention.

Wisconsin has 19 youth delegates representing the state, which makes up 20 percent of the overall Wisconsin delegation, Rae said.

Rae said this is the largest showing of youth involvement that the Wisconsin Democrats have seen, and one of the largest percentages of young delegates per state from across the nation.

Rae was a special guest of the Wisconsin delegation at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and now serves as the co-chair of the DNC Youth Council. As a two-time convention participant, Rae has seen the increase in youth involvement first hand.

"In 2004 Wisconsin had so few youth delegates, and now to have such a great number, I absolutely love it," Rae said.

New to the convention scene is Molly Rivera, a sophomore at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin delegate.

Rivera was chosen by the Obama campaign to appear on stage at the Pepsi Center as a representative of the youth vote.

"It was crazy looking out at the thousands and thousands of people," Rivera said.

But even with all the whirlwind excitement at the convention, a young face still stands out in the crowd as a minority.

Rivera said she felt that having young delegates present would make an impact on the older generation's view on youth voters.

"I think it's really important that people understand that we are here, we're here to represent, and we're not going to go away," Rivera said.

Compared to 2004, Rae said this attitude is expected to dictate youth turnout in November.

"This time around there is a general sense that this is our time and our time to make history," Rae said.

Alec Loftus, communications director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said youth delegates represent a new generation coming into the political process.

"The young delegates are doing exceptionally well," he said. "They are all very sharp, very intelligent and well-informed."

Loftus, who is currently at the convention, said he feels an amazing amount of energy and party unity in an "electrifying atmosphere."

"It's the passing of the torch from one generation to the next," he said.

And while college students are tuning in between classes to watch history in the making on television, the youth delegates in Denver want to stress that the people sitting on the floor of the convention center are just like the people sitting on the floor of their dorm rooms.

Sarah Milnar contributed to this report.