We’re plunging into Homecoming week tomorrow.
Monday marks the first day of public space campaigning and this year marks the second year since shifting the focus away from traditional theme-based campaigns. Our Homecoming candidates all have passions for service and the Queen and King’s plastic crowns will earn them one thousand dollars each to help sponsor a charity event.
This past Friday, I had the chance to sit down to hear from a candidate with heart.
Newman Library on a late Friday morning is a sparsely populated spot; only the most desperate of students are hunched over textbooks, staring at computer screens. It’s almost sad. Yet, when Quang Vo rounds the corner with a wave and megawatt smile, the library suddenly isn’t so gloomy. He’s got on a VT baseball cap, a maroon Hokies shirt, and a long board skateboard under one arm: he’s impossibly cool.
Moments after greeting me, he is also greeting another library dweller. They shake hands, clapping each other’s shoulder, and I wasn’t surprised in the least. Vo is the sort of person who knows everyone everywhere. I suspect he’s friends with every person on campus—or would be by the end of the semester.
Vo has the charisma to win over the hearts of Virginia Tech’s student population and, once he began explaining his campaign, he proves to have the passion, too: “My platform is hunger alleviation and awareness in the New River Valley. My slogan is ‘Hokie Power and the Battle Against Hunger.’” His smile is still beaming—his signature.
When I asked him why he chose hunger relief, he turns serious: “This platform goes back to the values I grew up with. My parents always made me hold food up to a really high regard. Having nutrient, having sustenance, is so essential to living and they taught me as I grew up that some people aren’t so fortunate. In high school, that’s what I focused on: working at food drives, volunteering at shelters. Now it feels like a desire or need that I need to fill.”
He shared with me that Montgomery County is the third poorest county in the state. Virginia Tech’s neighbors—neighbors of the school who prides itself for excellent food—often struggle to feed themselves. This is unacceptable for Vo. “I’m frustrated by the situation. There’s people out there with such good hearts but can’t learn or be successful like they should because they’re so worried about where their next meal is from.”
To help raise awareness and funds for hunger alleviation organizations such as Micah’s Backpack and Campus Kitchen, Vo plans on hosting a cook off competition in the spring. “Students, faculty, staff, and community members are invited to participate or eat food by buying a ticket as an individual or an organization,” Vo explains. “People who are facing food insecurities can attend the event for free; they can get tickets at Micah’s Backpack or Campus Kitchen.” The goal is to eliminate the social pressures and shame often associated with receiving food handouts.
Our chat draws the attention of a few around us then and I had the opportunity to watch Vo in action. He leans forward, speaking candidly and passionately, managing to make a friend within a few minutes of conversation. His smile is back, beaming fully.
The more cynical part of me has always wondered what the point of Homecoming candidates has been; it always seemed a glorified popularity contest. Yet, VT has shifted the focus to service and sitting back and listening to Vo, I realized its just the opposite. Homecoming is a contest about passion, about giving back, about who can be most inspirational. As Vo said, “Homecoming is really asking what you guys can do to make a difference.”
This Homecoming week, learn about the different service organizations the candidates are passionately supporting. Learn which one is closest to your heart. And, when it comes time to cast your ballot, vote for who you believe best embodies ‘Ut Prosim.’
But, if nothing else, remember you can’t spell ‘vote’ without Vo.