Until about a year ago, 24-year-old nanny Sabrina Fedrigo stayed away from politics.
“I voted but I didn’t really care,” she said. “I just went on election day and voted for who I thought would be a better president.”
Now, she’s on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as a delegate, one of the over 1,800 pledged to Bernie Sanders.
For this first-time delegate from Collegeville, Pennsylvania, the journey to the Wells Fargo Center has been both bittersweet and life-changing.
Like many a modern romance or impulse purchase, Fedrigo’s search for the right presidential candidate started on the internet.
“I took one of those silly different survey things and saw that Bernie Sanders was running,” she said. “I watched a bunch of his YouTube videos and his speeches…and I really liked how he was speaking to us honestly about campaign finance [and] income inequality situations here.”
That was a year ago, as Fedrigo was finishing up her last few classes towards an associate’s degree at Delaware County Community College just outside of Philadelphia. Shouldering student debt from an earlier stint at a private university, she also worked in childcare to put herself through school.
Sanders’ messages of economic inequality and environmental responsibility struck a chord, and soon her enthusiasm started snowballing.
“I got more involved, met more people, learned more and then I was like, ‘Well I guess I have to phone bank and canvass and run as a delegate and convince everyone I know to vote for Bernie Sanders elected’.”
That included her parents, who were both registered Republicans. Following her coaxing, they both voted for Sanders in the primary.
In April, she ran for a delegate spot representing Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district, which covers parts of Berks, Chester, Lebanon and Montgomery Counties — and won.
Dressing for the DNC
A month before the Democratic National Convention, Fedrigo faced facts: she had nothing to wear to the Wells Fargo Center.
“I wear like flip flops and shorts and like a t-shirt, little sundresses,” she said, sitting in her car in the King-of-Prussia Mall parking lot. As a babysitter and college student, business casual wear was just not practical.
“Cat pictures and Looney Tunes…that’s what I usually wear, Disney clothes,” she said. “It’s fun for the kids.”
Fedrigo had to scrimp and work extra to to afford the hotel room at the DoubleTree on Broad Street – sharing it with three other Sanders’ delegates to cut costs. About $800 came from other Sanders supporters, who donated through online fundraising platform GoFundMe, and she estimated she raised at least another thousand dollars.
Some of that money also went to dressing the part.
Inside the mall, she beelined to H&M, picking up a white linen blazer in the professional dress section. On her way to the checkout, she stopped to touch a button-down shirt covered in zebras, before moving on. “I can’t help myself,” she said.
Amid a flurry of preparation for her stint at the convention, Fedrigo was also bracing for disappointment in Philadelphia: a Sanders’ presidency was not in the cards.
Outside the mall, she considered her position.
“It’s just a shame because I worked so hard and I put so much time and money into Bernie’s campaign,” she said. “You know, it’s not fun to lose.”
“The unity is what makes me stay involved.”
On the first day of the convention, Fedrigo stood in a long line of Sanders delegates waiting to hear their candidate speak before his big speech on the convention floor that night.
She and 21-year-old first-time delegate Yasmeen Kaboud – representing Pennsylvania’s 2nd District – met during the campaign and stayed by each other’s sides in the throng of delegates and protesters.
Inside the main ballroom, they park it in the back, where Fedrigo had to stand on a chair to see her candidate – along with rapper Killer Mike and actress Rosario Dawson – speak.
During his speech, she became visibly moved, clapping and crying.
“I cry at every single Bernie Sanders rally,” she said afterwards. “It’s not a sad cry, I just get overwhelmed with how much love and support we have.”
Looking around the room at all the other people working towards the same goal, she said, “the unity is what makes me stay involved.”
As for Sanders’ message that his delegates should throw their votes behind nominee Hillary Clinton, she said she doesn’t know yet who she’ll vote for.
“You know, it’s a shame. But, he is a man of his word and he said way before… if he’s not the Democratic nominee he will support the Democratic nominee.”
Her friend, Yasmeen Kaboud, was less circumspect.
“Personally, man it’s so hard. I’m here for Bernie. I was elected to support Bernie Sanders, I got into this campaign but at this point I think we’ve got to be realistic and Hillary Clinton will likely be the Democratic nominee,” she said. “I think we have to get behind that,” she said slowly.
In the future, Fedrigo said, no matter who she casts a ballot for in November, she plans to stay involved in her local Democratic party’s progressive wing.