The EMU Young Democrats club won the Up-In-Coming Chapter Award at the Virginia Young Democrats Conference in April 2022 for the quality and impact of their activities throughout the year as a newly-chartered Young Democrats club in Virginia. Club president Meredith Lehman and secretary Evan Kauffman were both voted into leadership roles in various caucuses of the state organization.
With around 35 members, EMU Young Democrats chartered with the Virginia Young Democrats for the first time this year since the club was founded in 2018. They have worked hard to bolster activity and support this year, according to Lehman. In fall 2021, approximately 40 EMU students represented the club at the Women’s March on Washington for reproductive rights. Club members also completed voter registration training and registered EMU students to vote in state elections.
This spring, Young Democrats partnered with the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding to host an event facilitating conversation between individuals of differing political conversation; held in EMU’s coffeehouse, it was titled “Finding Common Ground in Common Grounds.” The club co-sponsored the event with EMU’s College Republicans. Around 75 students attended.
“The event focused on finding the ‘why’ behind individual political beliefs,” Lehman said. “The goal was to humanize our political adversaries amid such a polar and divisive climate. We aimed to understand each-other’s backgrounds and why each of us believed what we do.”
Lehman said that the facilitation sparked great conversation and the club’s goal is to make this a more consistent event in the future. The event also drew media attention: Anabaptist World plans to cover it in an upcoming issue.
Getting to where they are now, said Lehman, took lots of work. “This year one of our main challenges was increasing club membership and activity on campus. At the beginning of the year, we had very few active members and filling all leadership roles was a struggle. We’ve seen our club grow, however, and freshmen have really stepped up to help the club become more established on campus.”
Lehman was voted vice chair of the Valley Caucus, and will now “oversee activities of any Young Democrat Clubs in the Valley (James Madison University, Rockingham/Harrisonburg Young Democrats, EMU Young Democrats) and help organize collective action between them, implementing policies that will allow Young Democrats Clubs in the Valley to grow and initiate change.”
Additionally, she was voted chair of the Health Caucus and vice chair of the Rural Caucus. Secretary Evan Kauffman was recently voted as chair of the Environmental Caucus and vice chair of the Health Caucus.
This fall, said Lehman, the Young Democrats Clubs in the Valley will likely be working together to do canvassing for democratic candidates in EMU’s district and nearby districts, with a special focus on mobilizing rural voters. They also plan to help establish other area clubs and get more youth involved.
Club leadership also includes Aidan Yoder, treasurer; Evan Kauffman, secretary; Rachel Wheeler, communication; and Ally Welty-Peachey and Ruth Abera, social media and outreach. History and political science professor Ji Eun Kim is the faculty advisor for both EMU’s Young Democrats and College Republicans.