Musano volunteers for Congressional candidate Campa-Najjar

Musano volunteers for Congressional candidate Campa-Najjar

In a small park across from the San Diego Convention Center, Nicole Musano (12) stood with a crowd of protesters and activists, holding a sign reading “Ammar Campa-Najjar for Congress.” In front of her, a band performed resistance songs. As she listened, she said she saw herself in the words she heard emanating all around: “Get up, stand up, stand up for your right. Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight.”

Musano volunteered for Congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar at the Democratic National Convention, Feb. 22-25. During one of her volunteering sessions, she and a few of the other volunteers decided to check out the music coming from outside the convention center, Feb. 24.

“There was a protest from the labor movement next door [to the convention] and so they told us to take our signs, go out there and get the word out,” she said.  “They were having a concert, they were singing all these resistance songs, like Bob Marley, and it was so cool.”

Earlier that month, upon meeting Campa-Najjar at an art gallery, Musano was invited to volunteer for his campaign at the State Democratic National Convention in Downtown San Diego.

“I’ve been following Ammar Campa-Najjar for maybe a year on Instagram,” she said. “I read up on his stances on immigration, healthcare, and, jobs and I really liked [them].”

Although she had been familiar with Campa-Najjar before the gallery, she had never met him in person.

“I was writing an article on a [different] guy who was putting together an art gallery for DACA and for Dreamers, and he talked about how he had talked to different congressmen to get support for what he was trying to do,” Musano said. “He told me he was working with Ammar Campa-Najjar and I thought it was so cool. [At the gallery,] he introduced me [to Campa-Najjar]. It was awkward but in the best way.”

She said in that moment she saw an opportunity to get involved in Campa-Najjar’s campaign.

“[I told him] ‘I’ve been seeing a lot of what you’re doing and I would be really interested in volunteering for you,’ and he said it was great, and especially because [I am] a youth voter and it’s important to have a young voice,” she said.

It was only a week later that Musano began volunteering with the campaign.

“On Friday, I went to the convention center [in Downtown San Diego] from 3-8 p.m., then on Saturday I went from 8 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon, and then on Sunday, I went from 9 in the morning until 1 p.m.,” she said. “But it didn’t feel long and I wanted to stay longer. Just to be able to be there and see first-hand how the government works, and just all these different little things that make a difference was so incredible.”

Musano said that she has aspirations to get involved in politics as a career someday, although nowadays she is focused on her other passions.

“I’ve written for the school newspaper for three years now, and I’ve always found it amazing in the sense that I can learn so much about people, and I get a chance to get a glimpse what goes on in people’s heads,” she said. “I also get to check out all these amazing things that people are doing, but part of that is a little bittersweet because though I get to write about it, I’m not doing a lot of it. And I’m not saying that you know, journalists’ jobs aren’t hard or important, but I wanted to finally do something [myself].”

She said that after experiencing the campaign process firsthand, her political aspirations were still intact, and her hopes for the future of politics were still burning bright.

“[The campaign process] is a mess, but in the best way, in a very democratic way,” Musano said. “As much as we kind of view it as not being [democratic], especially when we think of the elites as holding most of the power and though that’s true, the fact [was] that I was able to have this opportunity without having any foot in the door.”

After all the hard work of the week was over, Campa-Najjar received the coveted pre-endorsement from the Democratic party.

“The last day when we were winding down, we had already gotten the pre-endorsement for the party, like 97 percent, so it was very likely that we were going to get the endorsement,” she said. “To be able to be there and have it finally confirmed that he had gotten the endorsement, that just felt like everything we had worked up to up until that moment had paid off.”

After it all was over, Musano said she felt a little out of place at the convention─but not necessarily in a bad way.

“The place was mostly old people,” she said. “I was definitely the youngest in the campaign. I think the second youngest were some college kids, maybe two or three college kids and the rest were older. But, even within our campaign, they were really young for political people.”

She said that, to her surprise, many of the older volunteers at the convention were extremely hopeful about the upcoming generation.

“They would tell me, ‘We took a stand in the ’60s, but we got complicit after that and we continued to let things be the status quo. Now, it’s up to you guys to change things, and I know that you can because we’ve done it once before and you can do it again. You guys just have to be willing to, and we are willing to stand by you,’ and that was really good to hear,” Musano said. “To hear that from all these adults during the convention was amazing.”