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UC Berkeley Students Bring Spirit To DNC

This story was written by Vincent Quan, Daily Californian

Some things might just be worth skipping class for.

While most UC Berkeley students will be trying to get into waitlisted classes today, Molly Kawahata, 18, and Paula Villescaz, 19, will be busy serving as two of the youngest delegates at the Democratic National Convention.

Though Kawahata and Villescaz will be going as delegates to the convention in Denver, Colo., several other UC Berkeley students will also be attending the convention to partake in what they say is an election where youth will play a crucial role.

"It's amazing how many young delegates there are," said Stephanie Chan, the communications coordinator for California Students for Barack Obama, who is not at the convention.

"We want to show the world that this is the year of the young voter."

Kawahata, who is California's youngest delegate, said she was first contacted by an Obama staffer to run for a delegate position after campaigning for California Students for Barack Obama in her Palo Alto high school.

"I initially wasn't interested," she said. "He just told me that I should try for it, and I submitted my name."

After learning more about being a delegate, Kawahata began promoting herself on social networking Web sites. On the day of the delegate caucus, she campaigned primarily while waiting in line, leading to a first-place victory in her congressional district.

"They sort of voted for me as ... a representation of youth enthusiasm," she said. "So it was mainly-I think-that people were just excited about students being out there."

Villescaz, a delegate for Sen. Hillary Clinton, said she too felt inspired to be at the Pepsi Center during the first night of the convention.

Though she originally did not understand the significance behind the role, Villescaz now says she believes attending the convention as a delegate is a remarkable experience.

"You see it on TV but it's nowhere near the same," Villescaz said. "Ted Kennedy was amazing. I actually broke into tears during his speech. By the time Michelle Obama got up, I was just a crying mess. I just kept on pinching myself because I wasn't sure it was real."

While six UC Berkeley students headed to Denver, other campus Democrats chose to remain in Berkeley to celebrate the convention, citing the heavy expenses as a reason to stay home.

"I decided to stay home, and I can enjoy it on TV," Chan said. "Being with the people at Berkeley, that's an experience in itself ... I think celebrating with my friends here will be just as good if not better."

Campus organizations including Cal Berkeley Democrats and California Students for Barack Obama will be hosting viewing parties both tonight and tomorrow.

But attendees said it is the crowd's enthusiasm behind the scenes that makes the convention so memorable.

"I mean, they don't show this on TV. In between when they show commercials, everyone just dances," said Molly Brennan, president of the Cal Berkeley Democrats. "Down below people were just dancing and having fun. It's just a very fun atmosphere."

Though she went to the convention as a volunteer this year, Brennan now hopes to be a delegate during the next convention.

"I think getting to be a delegate is now one of my new goals," she said. "Being here as a volunteer and a college student, I have to wiggle my way into things a bit. Being a delegate, I would get to represent the candidate and get to be a part of everything in a more significant way, and I think it would be a position of great honor."

The Democratic National Convention concludes this Thursday, while the RepublicanNational Convention will be taking place from Sept. 1 to 4 in St. Paul, Minn.

The Berkeley College Republicans will not be sending any delegates to the Republican convention this year, according to Kimberly Wagner, the organization's executive director.

Both Villescaz and Kawahata will be rushing back to Berkeley after the convention ends on Thursday, hoping to make it to Friday class on time.