Marty Dickens (Belmont Board of Trustees Chairman)rDr. Bob Fisher (President, Belmont University)rNashville Mayor John CooperrMark Ezell (TN Commissioner of Tourist Development)rSenator Marsha BlackburnrCongressman Jim CooperrButch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors CorporationrBelmont SGA President Meghan Hickok, speak during the announcement that Belmont will host the 2020 Presidential Debate  at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, October 11, 2019.
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Student volunteers on debate preparation, student involvement

A presidential debate isn’t organized overnight.

Nor is it achievable without the helping hands of a small army of student volunteers uniformed in red, white and blue T-shirts around campus.

For senior Levi Blazer, the journey to becoming a student volunteer began in March of last year, when applications first opened for volunteer positions.

When Blazer initially became a part of the Presidential Debate Student Committee, he was thrilled to see firsthand the sort of preparation that goes into a presidential event.

“I think it’s such a great honor for Belmont to host the debate and to give some students a very up close and personal view of how these things work in our country,” said Blazer.

Through his roles in student engagement and community outreach committees, Blazer got to see for himself how the debate involves both the Belmont and Nashville communities.

“Just seeing everything come together, the tents being built, seeing the Curb transform, I feel like there’s a buzz around campus, and that’s been so exciting.”

The excitement of the debate has drawn students far and wide to participate in the day’s events – like sophomore Ethan Spark, who travelled from California to volunteer. 

Spark has been doing classes remotely this semester but came to Belmont to work in the volunteer hub this week.

“We’re helping and making sure everything’s running smoothly, providing support. The debate committee just has this on lock. And they’re just letting students participate just to participate,” said Spark.

 “It’s been pretty fun. It’s good to see how this all gets set up and how it runs,” he said. 

For junior Bridget Fallon, seeing the behind-the-scenes action of the debate has been a big part of the fun.

Fallon is volunteering with the media and production team and serving as an ambassador to the many media members arriving on campus.  

“The most exciting part was when I was volunteering on Saturday,” said Fallon. “I got to go into the media center tent on the main lawn and set up phone stations for them and put down little place cards.”

Among the excitement, part of the challenge for student volunteers has been navigating the new security measures in place at Belmont. 

 “Being able to find our way around is getting tricky, but I think it’s great that students are here to help the media find their way around places that have never been on campus before,” said Fallon.

With the challenges of this week, junior Madalyn Lenaz finds pliancy and patience are key to being a student volunteer.

“It’s not easy to have classes and have the debate happening,” said Lenaz. “So flexibility has been a big thing, but a great thing.”

Many volunteers recognize the significance of having a hand in the success of a national event.

“I think what I am looking forward to the most is getting a call from my family. When they are watching the debate I get to tell them places that I’ve been and things I’ve got to do just to help out,” said Fallon.

“This experience has just been really cool, so I’m just really excited to share it with everyone in my life,” said Fallon. 

Others feel like their role as student volunteer is a way to exercise their voice on a national level.

“It’s so easy to feel like you don’t have a voice in these things,” said Blazer. “But there are still small citizens like me that have to work to make these things happen.”


This article written by Hanley Riggs and Kendall Crawford. Contributory reporting by Anna D’Amico. 

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