This article was originally published by WireTap magazine
September 5, 2008
Anima La Voy wasn’t very political when she graduated from college in Richmond, Indiana in 2004. In fact, she didn’t even know what the term “swing state” meant. Pretty interesting for someone who would go on to found Swing Semester, an organization based around the electoral significance of historically contested states.
was managing a vintage clothing store when she finally did find out what a swing state was–and that Indiana wasn’t one. Frustrated that her vote wasn’t statistically likely to make a difference, she came up with a plan. She would move to the nearest swing state, Ohio, and get out the vote in every way she could. Not only did she follow through with that plan, but she was able to convince 25 of her friends to do the same. Thus, Swing Semester was born.
In its second installment, Swing Semester is once again getting young people to move states and start organizing. This time, though, it’s doing that in a slightly different way. Swing Semester is hooking college grads and college students up with progressive nonprofit jobs all over the country. One of its main goals is to build stronger progressive communities in swing state cities by getting local families and businesses involved in the progressive movement.
“Swing Semester’s mission,” says La Voy, “is to bridge theory with action.” La Voy, the executive director and co-founder of Swing Semester, talked to Wiretap about her unique organization.
WireTap: What exactly is Swing Semester?
: The point is to use the momentum of the election cycle, and the opportunity of all the jobs in swing states for getting out the vote, to really bring young people into the progressive movement for a lifetime.
Swing Semester basically goes out and recruits young people to move to swing states and we help them find jobs. We help them write resumes, figure out what their options are, and then they find jobs with progressive organizations and campaigns–nonprofits that are doing things around the election… .
We often help these young people to get their very first jobs. Then we place them with a host family in that community. Hosts are usually very eager to open their doors to be helpful to the election and to the young people. And then for 8-10 weeks over the fall, young people get paid at their jobs, they work those jobs, they stay with host families, and they’re formed into a really tight community. [Swing Semester staff members] help participants host local events, potlucks, film screenings, author events in the community. Our effort is not just to have young people do the work and get out the vote, but actually be on the ground and add new ideas and new dimensions to what progressive organizing looks like.