KAMLOOPS - Kamloops students are learning early what it takes to be an informed voter.
A total of 28 Kamloops schools, a mix of secondary and elementary, are currently registered in Student Vote, a national program that simulates elections and helps foster future voters.
Westsyde and Sahali Secondary schools have taken the program to heart by using school Twitter accounts to engage local candidates and by organizing student run candidate forums.
Westsyde students, through @BlueWaveSS, have been asking all Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo candidates certain questions, including “how will you create more job opportunities for young people,” while directing other questions at specific candidates, such as one Tweet to NDP candidate Bill Sundhu “@bsundhu Germany has a high rate of solar energy. What do you plan to do to make Canada more green?”
“With some of their questions, I was very surprised,” Westsyde Secondary School social studies teacher Jeremy Reid says, speaking particularly about questions his students asked candidates of Bill C-51.
For Reid, it is important his students learn about elections and civics.
“Young people have a very low voter turnout. Kids are not super interested in the election and the process. I kinda make it my challenge to tune them in, (to teach them) that their vote can count.”
Reid hopes to get individual candidates to come to the school for an informal question and answer period with students as well.
At Sahali Secondary an all-candidates forum has been organized by social studies teacher Mike Koppes and librarian Cecile McVittie. The forum will take place Monday, Sept. 28. So far the Green, Liberal and New Democrat candidates have agreed to attend.
“Our plan is to provide candidates with three questions ahead of time based on platform topics as generated by our students. We're also going to have a few questions to be answered off the cuff, but still related to platforms.” Koppes says.
Students will moderate and time the event and Koppes expects to have roughly 100 students from three different social studies and civics classes in attendance.
During the last federal election, hundreds of thousands of students across Canada participated in the Student Vote mock elections.
Registered schools receive free campaign posters and customized ballots for their particular riding. On election day, students perform the roles of returning officers and poll clerks and eventually vote for the candidate of their choice. The results of the student vote are posted a day after the actual election on the program’s website.
According to the Student Vote website, the goal is to create citizen engagement in the democratic process.
“Studies have also shown that habits of voting and non-voting persist over time, so if young people don’t vote now, there is good reason to believe that they won’t become voters later in life.”
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