RNC searches for student volunteers

With the Republican National Convention (RNC) coming to Tampa in August, the city, including some USF students, is preparing to welcome hordes of politicians, protesters and the politically active.

On Feb. 6, the Tampa Bay Host Committee began its search for 7,500 RNC volunteers, said Amanda Whitelaw, director of Events and Volunteers for the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization.

Within a few hours of recruiting, about 1,000 people had registered, she said. The committee now has more than 2,000 volunteers fully registered and continues to allow registration at 2012tampa.com/get-involved.

Some students, including Ben Gasparini, a senior majoring in accounting, have already signed up.

This will be my second election that Ill be voting in, and I wanted to give it more support than last time around, Gasparini said. I feel the repercussions of everything that goes on in Washington. I want the country to run the way it is supposed to.

Gabby Ryan, a senior majoring in political science, is an intern for the Tampa Bay Host Committee. She said she knew she wanted to volunteer at the convention since she heard Tampa won the bid to host it.

I was so excited, and I knew that I wanted to volunteer to help Tampa be a huge role in making sure that the winner of the 2012 elections was from the Republican Party, she said.

Ryan, treasurer for College Republicans, said she first became interested in politics when she met former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2008.

I wasnt old enough to vote, but I was religiously reading Time magazine and articles about politics, she said. My parents werent really involved and I was trying to get them more involved and make them more politically aware about the candidates.

Ryan said she hopes more students will volunteer.

Were pushing for more college-aged people to volunteer to help us out in being the face of Tampa Bay, so when the delegates get here, they realize how much of a role college students have in the whole process, she said.

Volunteers may choose to greet convention guests at the airport or hotels, distribute uniforms and materials or coordinate schedules for other volunteers, help visitors find their way around the city, help set up convention-related events, or be an on-call volunteer.

Volunteers will not be able to enter the Tampa Bay Times Forum nor the Tampa Convention Center, where many of the delegates will be, she said.

The Convention will be held from August 27-30 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in downtown Tampa. The planning committee is expecting about 50,000 people to travel to the Tampa Bay area during the week of the convention, including delegates, RNC members, event planners, and the media, of which 15,000 members are expected to receive credentials.

This is the first time that the Tampa Bay area has had the opportunity to host an event like this, Whitelaw said. Its a great opportunity for the local community to get more involved.

Those who wish to volunteer must be 18 years or older by June 1, as both a government-issued photo ID and a background check are required.

There are no party affiliation requirements to volunteer.