An enthusiastic student stands by the UCF John C. Hitt library, approaching and greeting as many Knights as he can. With a genuine smile, Jesse Rubens shakes students’ hands and begins explaining his support for Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the U.S. Turning his clipboard around, he then invites students to sign in exchange for a free bumper sticker.
Tension grows as time shortens until the upcoming November 2016 presidential election. Some students have a long list of specifics about what the next commander in chief should have. At UCF, those specifics have generated into support groups filled with passionate voices.
Rubens, a junior health services administration major, is the president of Knights for Hillary — a new UCF student organization pushing for the first female president.
Rubens said Clinton isn’t only a feminist, but also an activist who is willing to take action on the social problems that are happening in the U.S., such as police brutality.
“I really feel that’s the type of thing I was born to do: politics — [to] make a difference. It’s my passion, it’s my dream; and I think it’s my destiny,” he said.
Rubens’ interest in politics began in his early teenage years. When he was in 7th grade, he followed the presidential election closely by watching the political debates.
However, he didn’t pay attention to the calling he felt for politics until he went to Israel in May 2014 to visit his family.
In Israel, he had the opportunity to be with his family and free himself from the angst and uncertainty that he felt was holding him back from pursuing politics.
“It’s funny. I’ve been struggling up until recently about trying to find my passion,” Rubens said. “Society and the people around me kind of make me feel like I need to focus on the normal path.”
The normal path for Rubens would be joining a fraternity and focusing on a more stable career where money wouldn’t be an issue. But he said he’s now strong enough to explore this lifelong passion — with the dream destination being the White House.
“I truly believe that the more I work towards pursuing my dreams, the closer I become to achieving true happiness and actually making a difference in the world,” he said.
Other students take their passion for politics down different paths than Rubens does, but with the same conviction.
Christian Rodriguez, a sophomore legal studies and international global studies major, has had an avid heart for politics since he was about 13 years old.
“I’m passionate about politics, mostly because I know how important it is. [Politicians] are the real people in power; it is up to them whether a country is prosperous or not,” he said.
Just like Rubens, Rodriguez said his main concerns are social issues, such as equality, which are affairs that could be resolved through politics.
Rodriguez is actively involved in organizations such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Equality Florida and Human Rights Campaign to make an impact in his community.
“No one ever fights and dies for economic rights, but people die and fight for social issues because it’s stuff that affects you emotionally, mentally — it’s about being a human,” Rodriguez said.
He said one of the most frustrating things he sees is people not taking advantage of their right to vote.
“I don’t see why you would not exercise your God-given right as an American to vote and actually make a difference,” he said.
He aims to become a politician in the long run, preferably as a representative or senator in the legislative branch.
Another UCF student making a difference in the community through his role as the vice president for Knights for Bernie at UCF is Steven Lynch, a senior information technology major.
One of Lynch’s most vivid memories is his mother’s radio on in the background throughout his childhood, which he said is how he became interested in the topic. Even though he and his mother have some different political views, he attributes his passion for politics to her influence on him growing up.
“My mother used to have talk radio on in the background — conservative talk radio. So I came from a conservative background, and once I got into my 20s, I decided I was more of a Democrat than a Republican,” Lynch said.
He said the financial and social aspects in politics are intertwined, and he takes them both into consideration when supporting a presidential candidate.
Starting Knights for Bernie in June 2015 was a life-changing experience, Lynch said.
The organization has registered more than 2,000 student voters on campus so far.
“I might be considering some kind of career path in politics — being the candidate or being behind the scenes in some capacity,” said Lynch, who never considered a career in this field before founding the organization.
Students at UCF are taking every opportunity to express their political concerns, even though they're methods are through different outlets.
Rubens continues to canvas by the John C. Hitt library, believing his enthusiasm and genuine intentions are going to be the answer for many students in the next couple of months. He’s convinced this is an important time to make the world a better place.
“It is so important to vote,” Rubens said. “It is so important to read what’s going on in your community, your country and the world and be [an] informed student, an informed person and an informed voter, because the more informed you are about the world around you, the more it humbles you.”