First-generation senior David Benoit is graduating with a double major in political science and international studies. “I told upcoming freshmen to say yes to everything, try everything at least once. Go to every organization, every meeting, at least one time, so you really know what you like and what you might not be fond of,” Benoit said. That’s what he did.
Throughout his academic career, Benoit served as the associate vice president of Campus Outreach and on the executive board of the UNC Association of Student Governments; worked as a residential assistant; was a Diversity Ambassador with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Programs; and was named an organizing fellow with Ignite N.C. Benoit also has served as the UNC Association of Student Governments Liaison within WCU’s Student Government Association; an outreach chair for the Student Democracy Coalition; as well as a campus civic fellow for the Andrew Goodman Foundation. Apart from his studies, he has been given the opportunity to sing in every vocal ensemble within WCU’s School of Music. This semester he is currently a member of the Concert Choir.
During his junior year in 2018, with the help of the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, the resolution S1-10 bill was passed within the SGA that then turned into university policy. This bill was for students to have the option to change their preferred name and pronoun through university-based portals. For example: Your Cat Card. “This was to make students feel more comfortable and safer, so they wouldn’t be ousted,” Benoit said. “This was one of my proudest moments because that was a moment that I was like ‘Wow, driving these sorts of bills, putting them into the university, and showing people what we want,’ it actually works out that way and I don’t think I understood or felt that way before that. That really showed me that organizing does work.”
During 2018 and 2019, Benoit began to really see himself organizing and determining what direction he wanted to take with political science. In the summer of 2019, Benoit worked in Philadelphia with the Philadelphia Democratic Party as a volunteer. The goal of his work was to build capacity and obtain voter connections and relationships with people. Then, in November of 2019, he found a volunteer position in Eldora County, Iowa for the Elizabeth Warren campaign and worked a couple of weeks. “Candidates were in living rooms of families, talking face-to-face, which is so different from Massachusetts and North Carolina. It was very different from all the work I’ve done. From Philadelphia, where I was in the heart of the city every single day on subways, to literal farmland. It really rounded out my knowledge to organizing a bit more,” Benoit said.
Currently, Benoit is quarantining in Boston with his family. He is still organizing, but has had to move organizing to a digital presence, such as Zoom calls, email and phone calls. “I wasn’t really applying for a 9-to-5 job, but that is what I will be possibly be doing until June,” Benoit said. Like many seniors, Benoit’s classes were moved online. “It’s been sort of a mental struggle, but I’m getting through it,” Benoit said. “The biggest thing is that this is supposed to be the most fun moment in my whole college career. Being able to have myself look back and reflect on campus not just physically, but also the memories and everything I’ve accomplished. I haven’t been able to really do that. It’s kind of sad, but I try to stay positive.”
Even with graduating in the midst of a pandemic, Benoit isn’t giving up his dream of working with communities as an organizer. He has applied for more than 10 positions, and has had several interviews. His goal is to be a senior-level organizer for the upcoming election. “I think it’s time to do so. I was a volunteer on Warren’s campaign and I’d love to be a staff member now,” he said. From the time he graduates in May until November, Benoit hopes to be doing just that. He also has applied for the Peace Corps and would leave the country in 2021 if accepted. “I would have to go to the country of Albania as a Community Economic Development Specialist for the next two years,” Benoit said. After the Peace Corps, he does plan to go back to school, but isn’t sure for what yet.
“I try to remind myself that I am in a very privileged place at the moment, and do have a lot of great things going for me at the moment. I just want to take this opportunity to help educate people and make sure everyone is healthy and safe, rather than getting in my head too much. It’s not really productive and doesn’t help anyone,” Benoit said.