While local elections are often marked by a downturn in participation compared to presidential elections, students and staff at Community High School are working hard to reverse that trend. The CHS Social Studies Department hosted a Candidate Forum for contenders in the West Chicago Mayoral Race and the Community High School District 94 Board of Education on Wednesday, April 3rd. Candidates for Benjamin District 25, West Chicago District 33, and Winfield District 34 participated in a meet-and-greet prior to the Candidate Forum.
Valentin Barrera, 17, of West Chicago, declared, “It was really interesting to watch and hear what the candidates had to say. It was also really cool that my question got answered!” Barrera asked the mayoral candidates about building a bridge over Route 38 to relieve traffic congestion in town. “I thought that it was cool when the debate for mayor got heated.” stated Adam Rawski, 17, of West Chicago.
Besides asking questions of the candidates as audience members, other students at CHS worked with the Wheaton League of Women Voters to organize the evening. Students prepared refreshments, welcomed the community, and collected questions from the audience to be answered by the candidates. Renee Yackey, a candidate for the School District 94 School Board was impressed by the evening. “(It) was nice for me to see first hand how CHS helps students become engaged in the democratic process. Very important!”
“The LWV of Wheaton is always happy to work on the local candidate forum with the students and teachers in the Social Studies Department of West Chicago Community High School where truly “democracy is a verb!” stated Missey Wilhelm, Vice-President of the Wheaton League of Women Voters. “Working with volunteers from the League, students volunteered to gather and sort written questions for candidates from the audience. The LWV of Wheaton embraces the idea of civic education and the school philosophy “to create effective citizens who positively contribute to our global community.” The students enthusiastically participate in activities that prepare them to exercise their right to vote by getting to know candidates and participating in mock elections.”
The candidate forums are just one element of voter education at Community High School. Dozens of students serve as election judges in DuPage County and the whole school participated in a mock Presidential election this past October, with the help of the DuPage Election Commission. In the recent Presidential Elections, students worked with the non-profit, Mikva Suburban to campaign for the candidate of their choice in the battleground state of Wisconsin. Students also worked locally at phone banks for Congressional candidates and canvassed for the local park district referendum.
The CHS Voter Education Program was recently featured in the November 2012 issue of Social Education in an article written by Dr. Diana Hess in an article titled, “Should Schools Teach Students to Vote? YES!” Community High School was one of the first schools in Illinois to be recognized as a Democracy School for its work in civic education and is the only school in Illinois to be featured as a whole school model for civic education from the Civic Mission of Schools.
- Lisa Willuweit
- Division Head of Humanities
The author does not allow comments to this entry