Sophomore Kimberly Dena’s presence at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., is somewhat unusual.
At 19 years old, the business and political science major is the youngest member of the Texas delegation. According to a CBS News/New York Times survey released in August, the average age of Republican delegates is 54.
However, if Dena’s participation at the 2008 convention is any indicator, that demographic may be about to change.
“Obviously the majority is going to be older, but there is a young presence here at the convention,” Dena said. “I’ve seen people around my age here – there are definitely other delegates under 30.”
Dena said she hopes her participation will help combat stereotypes that the Republican Party is elitist and out of touch with the younger generation.
“Personally, it was important that my peers could see that the Republican Party is a party for young people who want change,” Dema said.
Although Dena hasn’t run into any other TCU students at the convention, she said was surprised by the number of TCU alumni she encountered.
“I’ve met Horned Frogs ranging from people in the elevator to former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams,” she said.
Jim Riddlesperger, a TCU professor specializing in American politics, said the chance to attend a national convention is a unique experience.
“We’ve had students at both conventions, and it’s really a nice opportunity for students to witness the drama of politics,” Riddlesperger said.
Dena said people her age shouldn’t be intimidated by politics, and getting involved is easy. The first step on her road to St. Paul was simply filling out an application after voting in the primaries.
“It’s an application process primarily,” she said.
Dena submitted an application to be a delegate at the precinct and county levels. Then, at the state convention, the general body elected her to be an alternate delegate to the national convention in St. Paul. Dena’s job as an alternate delegate is to stand in for delegates who have to leave the floor, she said.
“Anyone can have his or her voice heard if they take the time to get involved,” Dena said. “When you’re here at the convention you can see the power of average people getting involved, having a voice, and it’s being seen here by a national audience, and that’s very inspiring.”
Dena said she may run for public office herself someday, but for now she’s focused on making sure other students don’t wait to get involved with politics.
“There are opportunities on campus for people to be involved this year,” Dena said. “I can be a point of contact for getting people involved if this is something they’re interested in.”