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Minden kids vote, too

by Merrie Leininger, staff writer

Although they are too young to vote, some students at Minden Elementary School are more knowledgeable about the presidential election than many adults.

The 4th, 5th and 6th grade students taught by Sandy Cooke, Maureen Foley-Marenco and Kristen Fowler were assigned to one of four political parties – Green Party, Reform Party, Democratic Party and Republican Party – a couple of weeks ago and have been researching their candidates ever since. The work will culminate next week with debates on Monday and voting on Tuesday.

“I wanted them to become aware of the right to vote and how valuable it is. That’s what makes us different as a democracy. We were striving to foster a strong feeling about that. We thought because it was the presidential election, it was the perfect year to do that,” said Foley-Marenco.

The students studied four candidates’ positions on five issues – gun control, education, health care, Social Security and the environment.

She said the students used reading and writing skills and some students who volunteered to speak at the debates even discovered leadership abilities.

Fowler said the lesson tied in nicely with the regular 5th grade U.S. and Nevada government studies.

On Friday, the students met in the library to register to vote. They must register in the party they were assigned to, Fowler said, but they are allowed to vote however they want.

Jamie Greer, a 5th grader, said she was assigned to research Pat Buchanan and learned about his stand on Social Security.

“He said he would let you build up your own account for that and use that for your money. I think it is good because if your job doesn’t give you money, it is pretty good to have your own,” Jamie said.

However, she said she planned to vote for George W. Bush.

“He’s really strong on education and that’s a really big issue,” she said.

Steven Mathews, 5th grade, said he learned Bush’s first priority is education, but he would rather vote for Gore.

“I heard Bush would give all the money back to the wealthy when we watched part of the debates at school,” Steven said.

Ashlee Negrete, 4th grade, said she was researching Al Gore and discovered she would like to vote for him because he has strong feelings about the environment.

“He wants everyone to help out and make sure everything is cleaned up. He wants the environment to be clean,” Ashlee said.

Tyler Schroeder, 6th grade, said Ralph Nader won him over as he learned more about him.

“He is really big on environmental issues and doesn’t believe in spreading nuclear waste around,” Tyler said. “At first, I didn’t think he was all that great, but the more I learned about the issues, I think he would be a good president.”