Hallie Balch and her classmate Carly Holboke attended last night’s third presidential debate in anticipation of moderator Chris Wallace reading one of the questions student delegates had formulated over the summer and submitted to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

They were disappointed.

“It was kind of shocking. They claim we (as a generation) are apathetic, but we were big enough to come and make a presence here,” Balch said.

The two students were still impressed by experiencing the debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump in Las Vegas. Sitting 400 feet from two candidates vying to be the next president of the United States is a little different than watching it on television, they said.

“It’s a serious environment, it’s not entertainment. For the audience you really have to process everything,” said Hallie Balch, a junior at Dominican University in San Rafael.

Over the summer, Holboke and Balch, along with more than 150 delegates representing colleges and universities from all 50 states and Washington D.C., convened at the Dominican University of California campus to identify and discuss issues that matter to young people nationwide, and to encourage fellow students to vote. The event streamed live, and using the power of peer engagement via social media, delegates rallied students across the nation to create a network and expand the conversation about which issues matter most.

Dominican is a voter education partner of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which means the event culminated with students submitting several issues they would like addressed to moderators of the presidential debates.

“It was a great way to give our students a voice, a scaffolding to reach out to their peers with issues they care about, and not get caught up in the candidates,” said Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar, Dominican’s senior adviser for strategy and planning. “The idea is to give them a reason to vote, to make them to care enough to vote.”

In 2012, about 41 percent of 18–24 year olds voted in the presidential race, compared to almost 58 percent overall. That leaves about 16.2 million eligible young adults who did not cast their vote, according to the U.S. Census.

Both Balch and Holboke have been very active in College Debate 2016’s social media campaign. So far #CollegeDebate2016 has received 2 million hits from across the nation.

“We far exceeded our goals. We didn’t know what we would get or how engaged the students would be,” Rodriguez-Farrar said. “For a small school in northern California, how far could we reach?”

“Millennials care about what happens to our generation,” Holboke said. “We’ve been very active on social media, and we’ll be playing this out for the rest of the week and moving into the future. It’s about more than just one night.”

Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at Cynthia.Sweeney@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4259.