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Memorial School students practice their civic duty in mock election

Date: 11/3/2008

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM The students at Memorial School took part in this year's historic presidential election by voting in the National Student/Parent Mock Election, administered by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

"We've concentrated our talk about the election in the past week," fifth grade social studies teacher Shannon Jarry explained. "We're looking at candidate backgrounds and what makes a good leader versus just 'who are you voting for?'"

Before the election, Jarry said she saw about a 50/50 split in her students over who they would vote for, Sen. John McCain or Sen. Barack Obama. The students in grades two through six voted the morning of Oct. 30. The winner, McCain, was announced at a school assembly later that day. He beat Obama by a vote of 157 to 134.

Second and third grade students were offered McCain and Obama as their only candidates, but fourth, fifth and sixth graders were able to choose from six candidates. Besides McCain and Obama, there were Bob Barr of the Libertarian Party, Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party, Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party and Ralph Nader, an independent candidate.

The older students were also asked to choose from a number of exemplary past presidents who they would most like to see lead the nation today. Abraham Lincoln won, with 50 votes. Runners up included George Washington with 40 and John F. Kennedy with 36.

Fourth, fifth and sixth graders also voted on what issues they would most like to see the government focus on, from health care and the economy to national security and the environment.

Memorial School hosted a primary in February, and the top candidates from that vote were Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

"This is the first time we've had a mock election," social studies and science teacher Tom Emery said. "Our kids are very interested in politics."

The National Student/Parent Mock Election has a goal of opening discussions between parents and children about politics in the United States, and teaches children about the election process, the candidates, the electoral college and the current political campaign through age-appropriate classroom lessons and activities.

"We sent a letter home to parents, asking them to discuss what makes a good leader with their kids," Emery explained. "The qualities they've been focusing on are fairness and honesty."

Jeff Halpin, a sixth grader, agreed that fairness is important. "You need it for taxes and health care," he said.

Fellow sixth grader Morgan Bowyer said, "Everybody should have a right to vote in who they think should be president." She added that she knew who she was going to vote for a month before the mock elections.

"As responsible citizens we need to learn about both sides of an issue," Jarry said.

Emery added, "This election is not to predict who will win. It's to open dialogue."

Other local schools who participated this year included Minnechaug Regional High School and Soule Road School in Wilbraham, Bellamy Middle School and St. Stanislaus Elementary School in Chicopee, Cathedral High School, Holy Name School and Mary O. Pottenger Elementary School in Springfield, Granite Valley Middle School in Monson, Converse Middle School and Palmer High School in Palmer, Longmeadow High School, Willie Ross School for the Deaf and Wolf Swamp Road School in Longmeadow.

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