Area residents and Centre College students and alumni stepped up their efforts to make Thursday’s vice-presidential debate successful. About 500 volunteers worked the event.
“We’ve had an overwhelming response from volunteers,” said Mandy Prather, director of marketing and development at the college’s Norton Center for the Arts.
Most were wearing yellow volunteer shirts, which helped brand them with the Centre name and made them easily recognizable.
For many, the work was done simply out of pride.
“It’s a really good honor. I’m very proud,” said Centre senior Abigail Patterson of Richmond, Va. She was one of the student volunteers who answered the call, after receiving word that the school was seeking volunteers. Patterson said she wanted to be involved with the event in any way possible.
“It’s a great opportunity to do something that doesn’t come around every day,” she said.
Hallie Boyd, a Centre student from Asheville, N.C., also volunteered. “It’s ridiculous, because Centre is usually a small place, quiet,” she said, explaining that she meant this in a good way, as the campus had come alive with activity leading up to Thursday night’s event.
“I love it. It’s very exciting, seeing Centre and Danville get transformed,” La Toya Payne, a Centre alumna and Danville resident, said. Payne was a student at Centre when it hosted the 2000 vice-presidentail debate and was able to actually attend the event.
She thinks it’s awesome that Danville was chosen twice to host a vice-presidential debate.
“It’s a great thing to say, of all the places that could have been, Danville was chosen,” Payne said.
Izzy Prewitt, a Centre senior from Lexington, believes being chosen a second time speaks volumes about the college and Danville, because the venue not only was good enough the first time, but allowed for a second visit.
According to Jim Hawkins, an alumnus from Gallatin, Tenn., that’s because Centre set a high standard for other colleges to aspire to during the 2000 debate.
Some changes have occurred since the debate 12 years ago, such as more advanced technology and tighter security, but “what has not changed, is the remarkable, small town, small college feel of the event,” he said.
However, “the number of media has exploded,” he noted.
The technology and security changes have been the biggest, according to Vickie Glidewell, who works at Centre.
“Everything’s so different now,” she said, speaking of advances in technology, such as smartphones, which were seen everywhere.
Some of the students were tasked with being the runners for certain media outlets. Prewitt had the opportunity to help the crew at MSNBC on its stage Wednesday.
“I got to sit in Chris Matthews’ chair,” Prewitt said, excitedly. She explains that she was able to hear and speak to crew members in New York, who were giving her directions on things to say, allowing them to perform a sound check.
Nolan Weddle, a Centre junior and native of Liberty, also was helping in the media center and as a transcript runner during the debate. He enjoyed meeting those who work behind the scenes with the media outlets, such as the engineers and others, who are lesser-known.
“It’s really interesting, hearing their stories,” Weddle said.
Many Centre student volunteers believe the debate experience is going to have a positive impact on their classmates, their school and themselves. It makes the political process more interesting and tangible for some.
“It’s a firsthand experience,” said Weddle, a government major. It takes the lessons out of the textbook and into reality.
For one student, Anne Mitchell of Arkansas, when some of her friends from back home saw her school on television Thursday morning, they started calling her.
“They were like, ‘I didn’t know your school was hosting the debate,’” she said, adding that Centre is “becoming known nationwide.”