Unconventional Conventioneer

While some people may think of summer jobs as a compulsory evil — an exchange of precious free time for spending money — Daniel Torres found his future career through his summer job.

After participating in a local campaign when he was 17, Torres said he enjoyed the experience so much that the next summer he volunteered to work for President Barack Obama’s campaign. His experience working for a national campaign at a local level sparked an interest he continued to pursue.

“I really felt like I was making a difference in my community when I volunteered for the Obama campaign and when it was over I wanted to continue to be involved,” Torres said.  “In a way, I think running for the school board was a part of that.”

Torres became the youngest member of the New Paltz School Board at 18. Prior to running, he served as the student representative on the board of education and sat on the school board committee. Torres said he still felt that the board needed a new perspective.

Since his arrival, New Paltz schools have cut down on paper consumption by beginning to use electronic report cards, nutritional facts are now listed on all cafeteria foods and the board fought for green initiatives to save tax payer dollars. Torres said he tried to make his decisions while keeping the diversity of New Paltz in mind.

“I thought [about] how a decision would affect me, a senior citizen on a fixed income, my parents and many other groups,” Torres said.

This year, Torres had the opportunity to serve as a delegate at the Democratic National Convention (DNC). He was asked by a former Ulster County Democratic chairman if he would be interested and filled out an application.

Torres said no one from Ulster County went to the convention in 2008 and he knew his chances of serving as a delegate were slim. He was notified of his selection in January and said the experience was unforgettable.

“I have to say it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” Torres said. “Just feeling the energy in the room when the president accepted his nomination and the confetti fell was something that I will simply never forget.”

Torres said he arrived a few days early to attend the College Democrats of America convention and officially participated in the DNC on Sept. 4.

Torres said his favorite moment at the convention occurred on the first night.

“I made my way up to the front of the stage and moved up as people left,” Torres said. “By the time Michelle Obama took the stage I was in the front sitting next to a congresswoman from Texas and Jesse Jackson.”

The convention proceedings began at 5 p.m. and continued until 11 p.m. Torres described his schedule as “hectic” but enjoyed seeing the production behind the scenes.

Torres said he was able to see the speakers and performers preparing for the events and watched the Foo Fighters perform an acoustic set for 100 people. He said as he looked around at the crowd, it was obvious that because of his age he was the only one to recognize the band.

JoAnne Myers, a professor of political science at Marist College, said having Torres in her classroom benefited her students.

“Dan is the epitome of a political animal,” Myers said. “His enthusiasm for all things political is actually catchy, so having him in a [political science] class is good for his fellow students.”

Myers also said his real world experience allows him to make connections with the theories taught in class. Torres then shares these connections with the class to enhance the discussions.

As the Northeast Director for the College Democrats of America, Torres has spoken to students from all around the country. He said that the feeling of excitement many saw during the 2008 election is still present.

“No one believes that what was started only four years ago is done, but people realize that so much of that can be undone quickly if we don’t actively participate in this election cycle,” Torres said.

Torres also said that this year’s election is not necessarily about either candidate, but instead about the values that dictate our country.

He believes students should ask themselves some fundamental questions to effectively choose a candidate. He said he believes that more young people need to voice their opinions and get involved in politics.

“I think it’s incredibly important for young people to get involved,” Torres said. “Our generation is so greatly affected by these topics and I would argue more so than any other demographic.”