YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Standing in front of a crowd of about 300 in the Greater Mill Creek Community Center, Johnnetta Cole told the assembled Obama supporters that they gave her hope for change.
"As someone who has served as president of the two historically black colleges for women in the country, I've spent a great deal of my professional life among young people," she said. "Never, ever, ever have I seen young people so committed to a candidate for change."
In the audience were about 50 Penn State students -- most members of the Penn State chapter of Students for Barack Obama -- visiting Ohio this weekend to canvass for their favorite candidate.
The students' trip was funded entirely through donations. Group President Mike Stewart sent an e-mail through various Obama listservs throughout the state soliciting contributions, and supporters responded with about $2,000 in donations in just 10 days.
Stewart's donation e-mail even attracted student and adult volunteers from outside the Penn State community, such as Emma Bergman, a junior at Haverford College in Haverford, Pa.
"I read that e-mail, and I was like, 'I don't want to donate, I want to go,' " she said.
Bergman, a psychology major, left Haverford at 9:30 on Friday morning to meet the bulk of the canvassing group at Penn State and then drove an additional three hours to arrive in Youngstown by 7 p.m.
Bergman said she thinks grassroots advocacy is even more important than raising money for the campaign.
"I mean, yeah, you need money, but you also need passion; you need inspiration; you need students driving through the snow; you need people on the ground talking about this [stuff]," she said.
It's this type of volunteer spirit that is driving Obama's campaign, said Famid Sinha, the national communications director of Students for Barack Obama, a student-focused grassroots network "under the umbrella" of the official Obama campaign.
"Young people in this campaign have really shown a willingness to go out there and get involved," he said.
Samantha Howsare (sophomore-public relations) echoed many students' sentiments when she said Obama's campaign has re-energized the youth vote.
"I feel like we have never had a candidate that ever talked directly to young voters and said, 'You are important to my campaign,' " Howsare said. "There's something so young about him."
There's something different about Obama that drives young voters to support him, Andrew Craft (sophomore-animal biosciences) said.
"Unlike all the other politicians out there ... he's all about getting the people mobilized, listening to what the people have to say," Craft said. "It's like it's him and us."