The Yale-based group Students for a New American Politics held its first fund-raising event Thursday night, kicking off a project to raise money for students on financial aid who hope to work for Democratic campaigns this summer.

The student-run political action committee, founded by six Yale undergraduates last year, aims to provide support for progressive candidates by training and paying students to work as full-time grass-roots organizers on campaigns next summer, SNAP press coordinator Hugh Baran ’09 said.

Baran said that in most cases, campaigns cannot afford to pay interns, and positions are therefore limited to those students who can afford to spend a summer working for no pay. By raising money to pay students for 10-12 week summer internships, Baran said SNAP will open the door to a new group of students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to participate in such campaigns.

“This is really a very exciting project,” he said. “We have an opportunity to make a real difference in close campaigns that are decided by one or two [percentage] points. We provide a great source of manpower for candidates who could use the extra help.”

Marissa Levendis ’07, SNAP’s executive director, said that next summer the group hopes to send 100 participants from 10 different colleges to Washington. Each student will receive up to $2,500 from SNAP, giving them an opportunity to make a difference on the American political scene, she said. Training for the participants will cover grass-roots topics such as building volunteer lists and voter registration, and will include a hands-on session with local grass-roots organizers.

Thursday night’s fund-raiser included speeches from endorsed candidates Diane Farrell and Joe Courtney, both of whom are Connecticut Democrats running for the House of Representatives in 2006, in the state’s Fourth and Second Congressional Districts, respectively.

“Both candidates were very excited about our support,” Baran said. “It was Diane’s first endorsement, and we know she’s going to make a strong showing next fall. She’s so dynamic and energetic.”

Since its founding last year, SNAP has already endorsed a number of candidates nationwide, including Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Levendis said she was pleased with the fund-raiser.

“This was a very successful event,” she said. “We raised enough money tonight to guarantee one staffer to go to work on a campaign this summer. After tonight’s turnout, we have high hopes for our next event in New York.”

SNAP has been supported by and is now affiliated with a number of other student organizations on campus. Yale College Democrats President Alissa Stollwerk ’06 said she was impressed with the event.

“It was wonderful to see members of the community and students from Yale come together to support this organization,” she said. “I think from here we need to raise more money, reach out to candidates and ultimately find students to fill the positions that we have made available.”

In addition to building support from other student organizations on campus, SNAP has expanded to chapters at over 10 colleges, Baran said.

Jason Paul, a SNAP representative from Brandeis University, attended the fund-raiser last night and said he is working to increase the group’s activity at his own college.

“We have a very strong core of Democrats at Brandeis who love the goals of SNAP,” said Paul. “The resources are definitely there. Programs like this are what people want to fund. It’s up to us to capitalize.”

Baran said SNAP still has a long way to go before making its $250,000 project a reality, but he hopes the group will be able to make an impact on the congressional campaigns of 2006.