Cal Cunningham, D-Davidson, said Monday night that student involvement was not only important in his 2000 campaign but also in the future of North Carolina.
"Run for office and get involved," Cunningham said. "Our state depends on it."
Cunningham, a member of the UNC class of 1996, skipped out early from a General Assembly session to meet with nearly 40 students, many of whom helped him during his 2000 campaign.
"I wouldn't be standing here without the help of this group of Young Democrats," Cunningham said. "This is an era where most campaigns are TV ads and newspaper ads -- it made all the difference in the world having people go door-to-door."
Cunningham, who at 27 is the youngest member of the N.C. Senate, said he will face many difficult tasks in his first term, including the $800 million budget deficit, the lottery debate, campaign finance reform and education. Many of the Young Democrats said they find Cunningham an inspiration.
Chris Brook, UNC Young Democrats president, worked with Cunningham on four separate occasions during the 2000 campaign.
"It's phenomenal," Brook said. "Someone 27 years old making a difference makes me think you can make a difference.
"I'm 21," he said. "In six years that could be me."
Stacy Smith, a junior journalism major from Raleigh, said she was not sure what kind of effect Cunningham's youthfulness would have in office.