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Teacher creates an opportunity for students to participate in politics

Holt High School hosts a mock election and debate

Nearly every person knows that an election is held every four years to decide who becomes the next president, or if the current one gets re-elected for a second term. Although, not many pay attention to off-year elections that enroll other important government officials.

The midterm elections are coming up on Tuesday, November 6th, and one of the choices on the ballot is the new governor for Michigan. To commemorate that, teacher Gavin Sykes McLaughlin organized a student-led debate held on November 2nd during sixth hour in the auditorium.

Out of the returners, senior Jack Carlson speaks about issues with the environment. As he did two years ago, Carlson argued for the Republican party. This year’s candidate for governor is Bill Schuette. | Photo Credit: Delaney Darling

The debate consisted of twelve students covering three different issues for four different candidates, each of a different political party. Each student had two to three minutes to give an argument illustrating their candidate’s stance on a particular issue. Then, after each argument, another student asked a cross-examination question.

This style of debate is held every two years at the school and is followed by a mock election in which students can participate and vote for one of the candidates. The mock election was split among the campuses, with the north campus voting today and the main campus voting on Monday, November 5th.

“Ultimately, the whole reason I have the debate, plus the election, is really to hopefully try to create as realistic as a civic engagement process with students,” said Sykes.

He has been organizing debates since 2008. He has held them in schools in Massachusetts and Oregon, as well as Williamston High School in Michigan.

Junior Joel Arntz stands and presents his cross examination question. He covered the Libertarian candidate, Bill Gelineau’s views on the economy. | Photo Credit: Isabel Abdouch

“It’s just trying to get them excited about the process, so that when they become eighteen, they’ll actually realize that there’s something at stake here and there’s something we want to do and achieve and change a country,” said Sykes.

He also hosted a presidential debate two years ago, and some of the cast this year was involved in the previous debate.

“I think it’s important to inform students on the changes that are going to be happening in our state soon and what the benefits to each party and each issue and how those can impact them even though they’re not voters. I think we delved a little bit deeper this time,” said senior Marina Threadgould. She participated in the presidential debate her sophomore year. This time around, she’s debating the issues surrounding the environment for the Libertarian candidate, Bill Gelineau.

“I really wanted to be involved in something with the school, and I figured I wanted to help people be informed on what’s happening because I think it’s important for people to know what’s going on in the state of Michigan because it’s where they live, so I thought this was a really good way to let people know about what’s going on and inform them,” said senior Jason Kline.

He was also one of the returning debaters and he covered economic issues of Michigan for Jennifer V. Kurland, the candidate for the Green party.

“I participated in the debate because I had an interest in the election, and I wanted to be able to voice a candidate’s reasons,” said sophomore Chase Walkington. This was his first time, and he covered the topic of environment for the Democratic candidate, Gretchen Whitmer.

“I feel like a lot of the students that are here today are here for the election and to hear what everyone has to say...they’ll realize that some people have ways that are going to help and some people have ways that won’t, and I think it’ll spark something in their mind that’ll make them want to be more politically active,” said Kline.

Senior Bryce Boersma takes the podium to talk about the education system in Michigan. He represented the Democratic candidate, Gretchen Whitmer. This was his second time being apart of the mock debate. | Photo Credit: Delaney Darling

“I think in general what it’s going to do though is you do see kids really pay attention at a level that they would not if they weren’t doing this. I’ve seen that in every state that I’ve been in. You can engage kids. You can have great conversations,” said Sykes.

“With this, I feel like it opens doors and opportunities for people to better understand our government,” said junior Anabelle Scriver. This is also her second time. She debated about the environment on behalf of Bill Schuette, the Republican candidate.

After the mock debate, the audience applauded and Sykes thanked them. He also reminded them to vote on Monday for the mock election. At the end of the day, the political party doesn’t matter. All that matters is the vote.

“Just get involved,” said Sykes.

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