It may be the first presidential election in which she’s eligible to vote, but 2008 Geneseo graduate Kady Patterson’s already had an opportunity most voters will never get —she served as a volunteer at a presidential debate.


It may be the first presidential election in which she’s eligible to vote, but 2008 Geneseo graduate Kady Patterson’s already had an opportunity most voters will never get —she served as a volunteer at a presidential debate.

Patterson, a freshman communications-journalism major at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., worked as a volunteer at the Oct. 15 presidental debate held on the university campus.

“I had applied (to be a volunteer)?over the summer,” said Patterson. “It was a long application process, and I was willing to volunteer for any type of position they had.”

Patterson said her original application was turned down. “I didn’t get selected initially because they were looking for communications students who had a lot more experience.

“But, later on, they recontacted some of the students who weren’t selected and asked if we were still interested in volunteering,” she said.

Patterson was chosen to be a student volunteer on the media buses. “Hofstra had hired coach buses to take media members from the university to their hotels,” she explained. “My job was to sit at the front of the bus, answer any questions they may have and basically represent Hofstra.”

Patterson said she was assigned the “graveyard shift” and rode the buses from midnight to 8 a.m. following the debate.

“Most media members had arranged their own transportation to and from the hotels. I think  Hofstra was anticipating a much more hectic situation. They were very well prepared,”?she said. “The most people I ever had on a bus at one time was 20.”

Still, Patterson said she used her volunteer experience as a chance to network. “I would joke around with them, and I told them I?was a communications-journalism major and gave them my name.”

As an official Hofstra student volunteer, Patterson received a debate polo shirt, which she was allowed to keep.

“We had a short briefing before (the debate). My position was pretty simple and straight forward, so it didn’t require much training. Basically, we were told to show up on time, make sure we were polite and not to wear anything politically oriented,” she said.

Patterson said she wasn’t able to see either presidential candidate, but added several of her fellow students were able to attend the debate.

“They had a lottery students could enter for tickets. There were about 200 tickets available for Hofstra students, and they said 6,000 students applied for those 200 tickets.”

On the day of the debate, campus was “crazy” said Patterson. “There were NBC trucks parked everywhere, and there was a huge tent set up for interviews. There also were a mob of students protesting.”

Having the eyes of the nation focused on her university was “very special” she said. “It gives you a better sense that what we’re doing actually counts for something. It was empowering to see students holding protests, and having them covered. It reminds you how important your
participation is (in the political process).

“When I moved from Geneseo to New York, I was looking for these sorts of opportunities. It was fun to have friends call or text me that day to say they saw my campus on TV or hear people on the news talking about Hofstra. It was actually a little surreal,” she said.

Volunteering at the debate “was just a very cool experience” said Patterson.

And, she’s made sure she’ll have a voice in her first presidential election, “I’ve already put my absentee ballot in the mail.”