Every vote counts | SteamboatToday.com

Every vote counts

High school students stress that their opinion matters

Mike McCollum

Election judge Milly Judson and student election judge Barb Lezin help voter Jennifer Edelstein on Monday morning during the first day of early voting in Routt County.

The war in Iraq and the 2008 presidential election have sparked heated debates in the halls of Steamboat Springs High School, inspiring many high school seniors to register to vote.

Barbara Lezin, an 18-year-old high school senior, said her desire to have a female president has sparked an interest in politics that has trickled down to the community level.

“I’ve never considered myself a political person, but there are many adults like me who can vote, but we are not really listened to,” said Lezin, who volunteers as an election judge.

“Because I’m still in school, I’m educated on some of the School Board issues, like the building projects, but not so much on the City Council,” she said. “I don’t think any of the candidates have really reached out to us, though.”

Of the 15,000 registered voters in Routt County, 136 are 18 years old, according to the Routt County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

Greg Ingalls, 18, said the 2000 presidential election showed that every vote counts and that registered high school voters may play a pivotal role in the Nov. 4 election.

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“I feel like a member of the community and country. I feel like I should put some thought into who is representing us,” said Ingalls, who noted he is more educated on the national issues than local ones.

Taylor Miller-Freutel, the high school’s student body president, said she perceives a disconnect between most high school students and those on the School Board because neither group has made an extensive effort to build a dialogue.

“I believe, for the most part, the local election flies under the radar,” said Miller-Freutel, whose father, Tom Miller-Freutel, is a former School Board member. “But there are a few students that are in leadership who are asked to be judges for the election or have a parent who had a parent on the School Board.”

Although Miller-Freutel is 17 years old and not eligible to vote, she helped host a School Board candidates forum Oct. 18. The high school senior told the candidates that more can be done to understand issues important to high school students, such as having breathalyzers at prom.

Lisa Brown, who is running uncontested for the District 2 School Board seat, asked Miller-Freutel how students would like to be reached out to, and District 5 candidate Jerry Kozatch said he wants to enroll in a history and Spanish class to see things from a student’s perspective.

District 4 candidate Robin Crossan and District 5 candidate Laura Anderson said reaching out to the high school’s leadership class would be a good start.

Mataya Flaharty, 18, said she would tell School Board candidates the things they can’t find in school district audits or enrollment numbers.

“They need to know things from our perspective because we are the ones who are getting taught and the ones the school runs around,” said Flaharty, who plans to vote in the November election.

“I feel like even though we’re old enough to vote for them, that our opinions don’t always matter,” she said. “We are getting to be adults. Some students will just vote how their parents vote, and others will rebel with their vote, but what they do on the School Board affects us a lot.”

– To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208

or e-mail mmccollum@steamboatpilot.com