Calgary students set to vote in Ward 11
Gathering pledges and planning their own votes kids are motivated to participate in the Calgary election
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Don't think you want to vote in the upcoming municipal election? Tell the kids of Calgary Connect Charter school who can't cast ballots but probably know more about the issues than average Calgarians.
On Thursday, more than 600 kids will vote on their preferred Ward 11 candidate and mayor as an exercise in being informed citizens taking part in the democratic process.
The school's Student Vote program, which was set up by Grade 6 students isn't the school's only foray into hands-on politically engaged coursework – Jamie Groeller's Grade 9 class already had their moment of engagement two weeks ago at the University of Calgary.
"Before we went the kids did a little research on what was going on, who the frontrunners were, what was going on in that Ward," Groeller said. "They went armed with all the information someone would need if they wanted to vote, didn't know how, whether they were eligible to vote."
Lucas and Claire were both at the University of Calgary gathering pledges from what some consider an apathetic voter base.
Claire said it was rewarding to find out they were able to inform people on how to vote.
"There was one guy who thought his vote wouldn't count," she said. "He wouldn't do it despite all the opinions he had on the issues."
Lucas said one of his friends actually helped an international student understand they were actually eligible to vote.
"I noticed a lot that people were really concerned with transit and transportation," Lucas said. "I was kind of surprised hearing that so many people cared about the arena, especially with students I don't think it's an issue that necessarily affects them."
All in all, Groeller figures the kids were able to have more than 300 university-aged young adults sign a pledge to vote.
"They did really well," Groeller said. "One of the ladies I went to after they had spoken to her said 'I wouldn't have talked about this if they weren't younger students' ... she felt comfortable speaking about her choice to vote."
Rick Fawcett's class have met with two candidates from Ward 11 so far, and are gearing up to vote.
The Grade 6 Students are leading their school's participation in the Student Vote Program, which this election has almost 800 schools participating. The program gives schools free access to learning materials, posters, ballot boxes and more to teach them about the democratic process.
"We're trying to help our school learn about the candidates by creating a website that we've been trying to update," Fawcett said. "What we're trying to do with these guys is move them towards being engaged."