David Grim - Junior - Juniata College
The first week of November will be a big week for David Grim.
The hours of planning and preparation. A summer spent training. All to get ready for this week. Now the Juniata College men's soccer junior will find out if his time and effort will pay off.
With a smooth Election Day.
Grim, a political science student at Juniata, spent a good portion of his summer visiting polling places around Pennsylvania as an intern for the Pennsylvania Department of State's Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation.
His mission was to ensure that the polling places were accessible to voters with disabilities, and that grant money for improved voting systems made available to the counties through the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was being put to good use. HAVA was signed into law in 2002, as least in part due to the controversy surrounding voting in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.
"I would say probably 65 percent of my time was spent in the office, and then the other 35 percent of the time I was on the road," said Grim.
Grim's role was to meet with county commissioners and election officials, as well as visit courthouses and perform grant audits to ensure Pennsylvania's counties are complying with HAVA.
"A typical visit would entail having the county set up 10 percent of their voting machines, and then I would check them to make sure they had the correct serial numbers and that they were functional, and then making sure they have all the things they claim to have spent the grant money on," said Grim.
The job was not always as easy as it sounds. Not every county was eager to see Grim, who in their eyes was a full-fledged state official from Harrisburg (and not merely an undergraduate intern) in town for the day checking up on them.
"It was interesting to see the difference between certain counties that weren't necessarily prepared, and then some that went the extra mile," said Grim. "I would always tell them I was an intern... but for the most part they always seemed a little antsy to have a state employee looking over their shoulder."
Grim's internship opportunity was something of an accomplishment in itself. He was one of four college students from Pennsylvania selected for internships through the James A. Finnegan Fellowship Foundation, named after a former Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth. A highly competitive internship, Grim found himself frequently introduced around the Harrisburg capitol complex as one of 2010's four Finnegan interns in Harrisburg, reinforcing the idea that this was no ordinary internship.
"The Finnegan Foundation does a good job of allowing you to find something you're interested in," said Grim. "I picked the Department of State, and they placed me with the Bureau of Commissions, Elections, and Legislation, where I did work with elections, campaign finance, lobbying disclosure, and voter registration."
None of this was new territory for Grim, who has turned campus and civic involvement into an art.
He is a member of Junita's Honorary Degree Committee as well as the Board of Trustees' Enrollment and Retention Committee. Back home in Boalsburg, just outside of State College, he is a voting member of Centre County's Drug & Alcohol Planning Commission, making decisions on funding for various drug and alcohol abuse awareness and treatment programs. On campus, he founded the Clean the Cliffs Initiative to clean up a local hiking area popular with Juniata students which overlooks the Juniata River.
And, perhaps somewhat predictably, Grim was elected president of Juniata's Class of 2012.
It is not his first foray into student government. Grim ran for a student representative position in seventh grade – where a teacher accused him of bribing voters after he handed out candy as part of his campaign – and won election as student government president at State College Area High School, defeating his best friend for the office.
Ask him if he's interested in seeking a little bit higher public office someday, and Grim is somewhat non-committal – "I do enjoy the policy and lawmaking side of things" – but others are not so coy about where they see Grim headed.
"There's no question his name's going to be on a ballot somewhere, someday," said Juniata head men's soccer coach Dan Dubois.
Dubois has been the happy beneficiary of Grim's talent in his other passion: soccer.
Juniata men's soccer has shown steady improvement over Grim's first three years in blue and gold, and he's been a major contributor. He has seven goals and seven assists over his first three seasons at Juniata, including five goals in his freshman campaign.
He was shifted from forward to outside midfield this season, where he finished the season with a team-high four assists.
"The style of play we have requires a bigger forward who can stand their ground up top and distribute the ball – and obviously I'm not that big," said Grim.
After playing forward for his entire career, it was a transition that has required a little extra work on Grim's part. But extra work is something Grim is used to – between keeping up his Dean's List-level GPA, being a leader on campus and in his community, and doing his part to bring Juniata men's soccer to nearly unprecedented levels of success.
"This year's seniors won three games their freshman year, and this year we had the second-best record in program history – so as long as that continues, I'll play goalie or whatever," said Grim with a laugh. "If I can graduate and have every season progress with a better record, I'll be very happy."