A lesson in good citizenship
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 28, 2008 1:46 PM
Students at School Street Elementary School register to vote in a mock election last week. Polls closed Friday for registration, but students will vote November 4th.
Candidates' posters lined the path leading up to voter registration, while several potential voters waited for their turn to sign up.
After all, if you don't register, you can't vote on Nov. 4.
Even second-graders know that.
What started out several weeks ago as a lesson on good citizenship in Marie Stone's School Street Elementary School classroom turned into a whole school, real-life lesson on the rights -- and responsibilities -- of voting.
"Our students are learning that it is everyone's responsibility to vote and also the terminology of political campaigns," Mrs. Stone said.
Students and staff were required to register to be eligible to cast their ballots at the school on Election Day.
Stephanie Boykin accompanied her first-grade class.
"We have been talking about presidential candidates. They know who they are, and they wish that they could vote," she said. "We told them when they get to be a certain age, to vote -- and to remind their parents to vote. I think a lot of them went home already and asked them (to vote)."
Classes throughout the school have discussed and participated in various aspects of the election process -- including student candidates making posters and T-shirts campaigning for office, listing their qualities and platforms.
Mrs. Stone's students were quick to relay some of what they have learned.
For Michael Kinsey, making sure you have the chance to participate in the election is the most important lesson.
"Every vote counts," he said. "If you don't register, the person that you really want to vote for, it probably won't be that person. It will probably be the other person."
Quamar Vaughn agreed.
"You must register to vote. It counts to vote," he said.
Demetrius Hamiliton found out that he still has a few more years to go before he can cast his ballot.
"I found out that you have to be 18 to vote," he said.
But when he is allowed, he will be prepared, Demetrius said. He will watch the presidential debates.
"It helps you learn more about important stuff," he said.
A candidate, said Natiya Staton, is somebody who is running for office. She plans to vote for Barack Obama, she said, "because he makes gas prices lower and he helps the poor people who don't have any money."
"And you can only vote for one person," added Beauti Kornegay, who said she was happy the students were being allowed to vote.
"It's your responsibility to vote," said Tilwann James. "It matters because it's the first time an African American is running for president."
Students took turns throughout the week manning the registration booth. Friday it was Kevin Grady and Nile Harvey's turn.
"They come to sign up, and they get a sticker after they sign up," Kevin explained.
No special training was required for the job, both said.
"We just happened to act good," Kevin said.
"It's kind of easy," Nile said.
"His job's easy -- all he has to do is just sit there and let them write. I have got to pull the sticker off," said Kevin of his role.
Dealing with voters wasn't always easy, however, the boys said.
"There was like this one kid, he got mad at me because it wasn't his turn," Nile said. "He was like in the back of the line."
The young registrar just took the confrontation in stride -- knowing how important his task was, he said, glancing down at his growing list of names.
"I mean, I just can't believe that I have this many names," Nile said. "It just makes me feel like I'm so happy."
The polls at School Street School are officially closed -- until Election Day, Nov. 4. Then, three desks will be set up as makeshift voting booths from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"I think they have really enjoyed this," Mrs. Stone said. "You can tell that they have looked at some TV. A lot of them say that gas prices are a problem. They have told us why they're going to vote for who they are."
Ballots will be counted and winners announced by the end of that day, the teacher said. The following day, her class will celebrate with a class party, with plans to write letters to the new president.
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