Still four years too young to vote, Soroco High School freshman Chelsea Worley suddenly finds herself interested in national politics and her right to vote.
"I used to not care," Worley said. "Now I'm like, maybe I should vote. That would be cool to stand out and be a voter."
And though Election Day will come and go without Worley being able to cast her choices for national and state offices, a new civics class at Soroco High School is fueling the electoral interest of the area's future voters.
In accordance with state law, all Colorado public school students are required to take a year of civics class in order to graduate. The law, passed in 2003, spurred Soroco High School to make civics mandatory for all its freshmen students.
Capitalizing on perhaps the most interesting and contentious presidential election in decades, Soroco freshmen are getting a crash course in the American electoral system and other aspects of democracy.
First-year Soroco teacher Danelle Rivera began the school year with a basic overview of civics, particularly focusing on voting. It wasn't long before she heard her 40 students expressing concern about the lack of registered Routt County voters who show up to the polls on Election Day.
Tying the topic of voter apathy with that of campaign and election propaganda, the class decided to create its own get-out-the-vote effort.
The students, divided into small groups, used a school video camera to produce election commercials using various types of propaganda, such as name-calling. Eight commercials ranging in length from 30 seconds to 3 minutes were produced by Rivera's classes. The nonpartisan videos, which were shown in the school's commons area during volleyball games last week, will become part of a larger lesson in democracy -- differing viewpoints.
Rivera will send the tapes to Denver's Gateway High School, where civics students are doing a similar project. Rivera taught at Gateway before coming to Soroco this year. Gateway's classes will send their videos to Soroco.
"I think the key thing will be for these kids to see that there are different viewpoints beyond this county," Rivera said.
In addition to the video exchange, the two schools will conduct mock elections Nov. 2, using the vote tallies for a lesson on the Electoral College. Soroco students soon will learn the importance of size when it comes to the Electoral College because the votes cast by Gateway students will count more than the votes cast by Soroco students. Gateway is a significantly larger high school.
In the end, Rivera hopes her students understand the significance of a democracy and the role they can play in it.
"I hope they go home, talk to their parents about the election and stimulate conversations about the issues," she said. "We're setting a good pretense of them being active citizens once they're old enough to vote."
For students such as Worley and Michelle Crawford, the class already has had an effect.
"Every one person can make a difference," Worley said.
"I never felt it affected us," Crawford said. "You really do learn that all the decisions being made affect you in some way."
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