School of Journalism and Mass Communication freshman Hana Barkowitz worked on her first political campaign when she was 16 years old. As a high school student in Pittsburgh, she decided she wanted to help President Obama get reelected in 2012.
Barkowitz was the second-youngest member of the Obama For America team in Pennsylvania, and she served as an organizing fellow. She went through special training and organized phone banks, canvassing events and voter registrations.
“I loved the lifestyle, I loved the people and working for a good cause,” Barkowitz said. “I was 16; I couldn’t vote. This was the only thing I could do to get this guy elected.”
Then, the summer before her senior year of high school, Barkowitz moved to Brooklyn to work on Bill de Blasio’s New York City mayoral campaign. Barkowitz said she’d like to move to New York one day, and as a “true progressive reformer,” de Blasio was supporting many causes she felt passionate about.
Barkowitz enjoyed campaigning directly with de Blasio throughout her time in New York while doing the same kind of phone bank and canvass work she did during the Obama campaign.
“I was all ready very interested in politics, and that experience just verified that’s what I wanted to do. It’s hard, it’s long days. It’s a young person’s game, that’s what they call it.”
Because of this experience, she was able to meet Bill Clinton and Cynthia Nixon, among other “VIPs.”
“Bill’s just as charismatic as you’d expect him to be,” Barkowitz said. “I was just so star struck. He remembered my name from the first time I saw him to the last time I saw him. He remembered I was from Pittsburgh, too, so it was pretty cool.”
Now, three years later as a freshman public relations major, Barkowitz has been elected the 2015-2016 president of the Kent State College Democrats after only being involved in the organization for one semester.
Barkowitz was on the radar of the College Dems before she stepped foot on campus as a student. Previous president Schad Dalton reached out to Barkowitz on Facebook to encourage her to get involved, even in an executive board position, right away.
It was the State of the Union address meeting in January that really drew her into the organization, though.
“It was incredible watching this guy I worked to get elected go on TV and see him talk,” Barkowitz said. “Being around people who supported him too was a really cool feeling. I was like, ‘Wow, this is awesome.’”
Within one month of getting involved in College Dems, Barkowitz was promoted to a membership director position, and later on in the semester, she was promoted again to acting president.
“It’s kind of surreal right now,” Barkowitz said. “It’s crazy, and after everything that’s happened this year, I feel ready to meet next year head-on. Being a PR major has definitely helped me through this.”
Barkowitz said her training in public relations classes, as well as the support of JMC faculty members like former CIA Senior Intelligence Service Executive and current PR Assistant Professor Stephanie Smith, has prepared her to take College Democrats to the next level at Kent State next year, especially going into a campaign year.
“Good PR is really going to help us let people know about our image and know who we are,” Barkowitz said. “I think everyone should be interested in politics at our age. It’s so important, and people don’t realize that. This is our future just as much as anyone else’s, so it shouldn’t just be the older generations caring about politics.”