Durham Tech student recognized for helping collect census data

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The first big data dump from the 2020 census is now being analyzed by researchers across the country.

The pandemic had a major effect on the once-a-decade effort, delaying the in-person count for months.

That's why community volunteers were so important, spreading the word about how an accurate count can mean more government benefits for communities.

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One of those volunteers, a local college student, is being recognized by the US Census Bureau for her efforts.

But Shelbie Chervinko is quick to point out that 18 months ago she knew almost nothing about the census.

"It was a great opportunity to educate myself and educate my peers on why the census is important," she said.

Fortunately, she's a quick study.

And after volunteering to be Durham Tech's census fellow, she and the school's director of student engagement held numerous events before the pandemic hit.

One was the Coffee, Cupcakes & Count table she set up on campus.

During that event she shot a Facebook video encouraging people to fill out the census form.

In its most recent newsletter, the Census Bureau's Atlanta Regional Office featured a section on student participation and included a link to Chervinko's video.

In one portion of the video you hear her say: "It is important for people within Durham's community to be counted in the census."

And she notes that was especially true for college students.

"One of the benefits of this census is we get allocated more money for different school grants for financial aid," Chervinko said.

But sometimes college students are undercounted in the census.

The head of student engagement at Durham Tech says Chervinko made sure that wouldn't happen on their campus.

"She's got a lot of energy and she shares a lot of information and she knows how to share it in a way with her peers that is digestible to them and meaningful to them," Erin Riney said.

That's why she was happy to see the Census Bureau recognize Chervinko's efforts.

"She has a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of passion about her community," Riney said. "And I'm just glad she's getting the recognition because she's put in the work over the years in various ways behind the scenes."

Riney has no doubt that the count of Durham Tech's students and faculty is more accurate because of Chervinko's efforts.

And she adds that her efforts also reached the broader Durham community where then 24-year-old was already proving her value as a leader.

In another portion of that Facebook video you hear Chervinko say: "Durham is actually one of the most historically undercounted communities within North Carolina."

Chervinko says when learned that factoid she was even more motivated to get people to participate in the census.

As for the Census Bureau's shout-out, Chervinko is grateful.

"It's important that they're recognizing the youth for our efforts. So I'm honored."
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