By Ilana Cohen
As the Democratic presidential candidates continue to compete for delegates to become their party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton is shifting the focus of her campaign to the states she must still gather support in. At the heart of Clinton’s race for the Democratic nomination is the Hillary for America (HFA) Brooklyn Headquarters where Stephanie Yoon, the head of the office’s volunteer department, oversees hundreds of volunteers dedicated to the common cause of electing Hillary Clinton as our next president. For Ms. Yoon, the volunteer department is an essential part of the Clinton campaign: “The work of our volunteers both [locally] and nationwide is not only extremely significant in pushing our initiatives forward but in galvanizing additional support throughout the country.”
When Ms. Yoon first volunteered for Hillary for America, it was on her college campus. Upon graduating college, she went on to get her Masters degree in International Law from New York University, interned for First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House, and served in a chief supporting role to the Vice President of Policy & Humanitarian Response at Save the Children, an international non-profit. When Hillary Clinton announced she would be running for President in April of last year, Ms. Yoon quit her job in Washington, D.C. and moved to Iowa to oversee volunteer recruitment and management for the Clinton campaign. Ms. Yoon says that when she moved back to the East Coast, she immediately began volunteering at the HFA Brooklyn Headquarters, and with her combination of field experience and political background, she eventually became the head of the HQ Volunteer Center.
Read the full Beacon Beat interview with Ms. Yoon below:
Ilana Cohen: How would you describe the general atmosphere and mood of the volunteer department? Do volunteers enjoy their work?
Stephanie Yoon: The HQ Volunteer Center is synonymous to our New York Field Office. It is the place where people in New York and surrounding states come to contribute to a larger cause because of their shared commitment to Hillary Clinton. For me, it is inspiring to meet volunteers from all walks of life who give their time selflessly so that our campaign can keep moving forward. It is always in our sincerest hope that they enjoy working with our team as much as we enjoy working with them.
Ilana Cohen: Are most of the volunteers experienced in political or campaign work?
Stephanie Yoon: While each volunteer is similar in how they support our candidate, everyone is unique in terms of their background. Some volunteers do have political experience. Other volunteers are high school students with a limited background in politics. This is actually my favorite part about our work – that there is so much diversity in our office – which gives me a chance to learn something new every day.
Ilana Cohen: How many of the volunteers at the HFA Brooklyn Headquarters are high school students?
Stephanie Yoon: During the summer and winter holiday months, we get a surge of high school and college students. We also tend to get many high school students to volunteer if their parents are volunteering.
Ilana Cohen: Why do you personally support Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate? In other words, what makes her the best presidential candidate in your opinion?
Stephanie Yoon: As a first-generation American who was brought up by a single parent, it is extremely important to have a leader who makes every effort to ensure equal opportunity for all, regardless of who they are or where they come from. My mother is a small business-owner and she has always fought hard to give my family every opportunity she believes we deserve. Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who stands up for me, my family, and especially, people like my mother.
Ilana Cohen: Do you enjoy your job? What is the best part of working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign?
Stephanie Yoon: Not everyone is lucky enough to say that they love their job, but I am one of the few people who can say that. Every day I come to the office with a purpose and I know that everything our volunteers do contributes to the goal of electing Hillary Clinton as the next president. My favorite part about working for this campaign is knowing that no person is more integral to the team because we are all part of the same puzzle. My mentality is that if one person fails, we all fail, and the hope is that we will all succeed together.
Ilana Cohen: What do you believe is Hillary Clinton’s most defining quality as a presidential candidate?
Stephanie Yoon: Our candidate stands up for people like me, people who have not traditionally had somebody on their side advocating for them or fighting for their values. I am proud to stand with her, because she stands with us.
Ilana Cohen: What was your experience of meeting Hillary Clinton like? Did anything about her surprise you in any way and how so?
Stephanie Yoon: I first met Secretary Clinton in 2008 when she was a senator from New York. I had the privilege of meeting her again when I was a fellow in Iowa. She has a light around her when she speaks. She is very real, very honest, and she makes you believe in the importance of this work.
Ilana Cohen: Is it important for teens to be involved in Hillary’s campaign or simply in any political campaign? Does the election matter for teens who aren’t old enough to vote yet?
Stephanie Yoon: Absolutely! Age should never be a hindrance to anyone wanting to participate in their democracy. This country stands for people using their voice and believing in the importance of having their voice heard. No matter what age you are today, you will always have the opportunity to vote once your time comes, so it is never too early to become engaged with the voting process.
Ilana Cohen: What advice would you give to teens aspiring to go into politics, campaign work, or group organizing?
Stephanie Yoon: Do it! In politics, or public service, you have the chance to become a strong advocate for others. For me, it has been important and inspiring to be surrounded by individuals – both older and younger – who want to push forward and become a part of this campaign. What I have learned most and [tried to encourage] others to believe is that in this line of work, even in your most powerless days, you can be a powerful force for others.