Donovan O'Neil just finished two hours of going door-to-door for the McCain campaign and was understandably exhausted when a skinny older man riding a bicycle approached him and asked the 20-year-old what he was doing.
Though O'Neil was initially concerned the man was going to speak aggressively, the two members of opposing political parties ended up going around the block together. The man rode his bike and O'Neil walked beside him as both explained why they supported their respective candidates.
O'Neil, a sophomore at Youngstown State University, appreciated the opportunity to have a serious yet healthy discussion.
"There's an impression during an election year that both sides can't get along," said O'Neil, of Brookfield.
Though deep conversations with bicycling strangers are not guaranteed for everyone who becomes politically active, O'Neil is not the only student to get a worthwhile experience out of his volunteer work.
For some YSU students, becoming politically involved through college groups and campaigns has been a positive way to help their communities.
Just discovered your inner political activist? Here are some ways to become involved locally:
H The Young Democrats of Trumbull County
Contact Jon Wike, president, at ILIKEWIKE1@AOL.COM.
H Trumbull County Democratic Campaign Headquarters
164 High St. N.E.
Warren, OH 44481
Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
H Trumbull-Portage County Young Republicans
Contact Roak Zeller, president, at 330-606-6108 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
H Trumbull GOP Headquarters
Rancho Villa Commons Plaza
2460 Elm Road N.E. Suite 400
Warren, OH 44483
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m-8:30 p.m.
Sunday, 12 p.m.-6 p.m.
Volunteering can also become more exciting when one can fully participate in the political process.
While O'Neil, member of YSU College Republicans, enjoyed volunteering at the Bush-Chaney Victory Center in Trumbull County at age 16, this election he said he's excited because "I can actually vote this time around."
Meanwhile, O'Neil keeps busy, calling 80 to 100 people on days when he works the phone banks for the campaign. Though it's tough to deal with people hanging up on him, O'Neil also hears people who complain about the suffering economy and the lack of jobs.
He said these people often aren't taking steps to help rectify the problems, and he doesn't want to be a person that sits idly by.
The motivation for political activism could be a growing trend among college students.
O'Neil sees a change in his generation, which he attributes to the accessible information available on the Internet.
"More students can become aware of issues," he said.
Ryan McQuillan of Poland has also noticed that students are more interested in this election than in previous ones because of hard-hitting issues such as the war and the economy.
As vice president of College Republicans, McQuillan also has spent time informing people by making phone calls and going door to door with fliers. Though he was initially nervous about the prospect of someone slamming the door in his face - which eventually happened - McQuillan can now look positively on the experience.
"Overall, you get a pretty good response," he said.
McQuillan, however, wants people to go a step further than just being informed.
"If you don't vote, then you can't complain," the 21-year-old senior said.
On the other side of the party line, College Democrat Mercedes Farmer equally values the vote.
Farmer's interest in politics, however, has developed relatively recently.
"I never was the person who talked about politics," she confessed.
That all changed during her 11th-grade government class, which covered the last presidential election.
Now, Farmer finds herself talking more with classmates and coworkers about her opinions. In addition to strengthening her resume, her activism has also helped Farmer socialize and meet new people.
Before a second job reduced the time she devoted to volunteering, Farmer, of Cleveland, helped register students to vote in September. Though she said a majority of those at YSU participate in politics, the 21-year-old junior said she was amazed at the number of students who weren't registered to vote.
Sometimes convincing students to become more politically involved can be challenging.
When senior Mary Grimm participated in voter registration on campus for the Obama campaign, students would often keep their eyes to the ground and walk away. Some would say negative things about Obama.
"You have to build a tough skin when you do this kind of work," Grimm said.
Grimm, of Austintown, started volunteering for the Obama campaign in September. The 22-year-old was one of only two members, though the number has since swelled to over 200.
Though Grimm is vice president of YSU College Democrats and vice president of campus group Students For Change, she admits that some students may not be as politically involved as she is due to busy schedules. If people don't encourage them to get involved, the students will continue to go about their daily routines, she said.
Still, Grimm said it's refreshing to see students rallying for their candidate.
Grimm's interest in politics began at a young age. Ever since she can remember, she and her family went to her grandma's house and talked about politics. These talks, she said, instilled in her the value that everyone deserves a chance to prosper.
"I've always wanted to fight for the underdog," Grimm said.
Grimm was also politically active in high school, involved in the 2004 campaign in her hometown of Stubenville for her county prosecutors.
"It has definitely enriched my life," she said of her activism.
Though Grimm described herself as a person who stays in the background, she confessed that she will stand up for her beliefs when people are unable to give reasons for their opposing views.
"I never want to trample on anyone's beliefs, but I want them to be informed," Grimm said.