For students at Warren Wilson College, self-organizing around issues is easy to do. Surprisingly, the campus, ranked No. 6 in the country on the Princeton Review’s list of colleges with the “most liberal students,” did not have a chapter of the College Democrats of North Carolina (CDNC).
“We wanted to see how we could work within current institutions to address issues but not put one form of activism over another,” said Khaetlyn Grindell, a senior who helped form the Warren Wilson College Democrats. “We saw an outlet that was available to us, and we wanted to make it [happen].”
At the state convention earlier this month, the Warren Wilson College Democrats won CDNC Chapter of the Year.
“Khaetlyn and the chapter at Warren Wilson have worked so hard,” said Emily Lovette, newly elected president of CDNC. “The Warren Wilson chapter sets an example through its community engagement with the party in Buncombe County, through efforts to get out the vote, and by educating voters on issues like voter I.D.s and voter restrictions. They have really made an effort that I, personally, haven’t seen in any new chapters.”
During the move to charter the CDNC chapter, Grindell and fellow students looked for ways to create campus student organizations aligned with the Republican National Committee, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party of the United States, among others. Despite the effort, CDNC is the only functioning national party affiliated student organization on campus.
“We want to see students going out and voting, and lobbying their officials, and writing letters and all these typical, but effective means of civic engagement. But, we also don’t want our group to be the only one, and we don’t want it to be a one-sided thing,” she said.
While winning chapter of the year was impressive by itself, the award weekend was not finished. Based on a nomination by Sebastian Ivory, president of Wake Forest University College Democrats, Grindell won the Tori Taylor Award, which is known as the CDNC Democrat of the Year.
“[Khaetlyn] impressed me with story after story about her youth, and how she fought disadvantage, without making excuses, and became the person she is today,” Ivory writes in his nomination of Grindell. “I’ve seen this fighting attitude in her every day when I work with her. She also has a great passion for these issues. But at the same time, has a level-headedness that I am incredibly jealous of.”
As if that wasn’t enough, the Young Democrats of North Carolina (YDNC), the official youth arm of the North Carolina Democratic Party, were co-presenters for the convention and used the weekend to elect group leadership. Grindell was nominated from the floor, and she was elected western regional vice president, which will allow her to mentor new YDNC leaders upon graduation.
“Nobody does anything by themselves, and I think that’s reinforced here on campus all the time,” Grindell said. “This is collaborative. This is a team effort. It feels good to be recognized as an individual, but it’s much more humbling and sustaining to be recognized among a really hardworking group of people.”