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Mary Giella Elementary School students learn about election process

Haley Boynton, 10, from left, Caitlin Williams, 9, Justin Morgan, 9, County Commissioner Pat Mulieri and Heather Shagoury, 9, look for positive and negative tactics in local candidates’ literature from a recent election.

MICHELE MILLER | Times

Haley Boynton, 10, from left, Caitlin Williams, 9, Justin Morgan, 9, County Commissioner Pat Mulieri and Heather Shagoury, 9, look for positive and negative tactics in local candidates’ literature from a recent election.

SPRING HILL

It's election season and, true to form, the politicians are out and about, and in some cases, even in the schools.

Put McCain and Obama on the back burner.

Sarah who?

Last week the kids took the spotlight as they campaigned for some coveted seats on the Student Council at Mary Giella Elementary School.

Justin Morgan, 9, gave out nicely sharpened pencils to his classmates in Debbie Brown's fourth-grade classroom and kept his speech very brief.

"I don't like giving compliments to myself," he explained.

Mary Miltner, 9, touted her good grades and her leadership experience on last year's Student Council as reasons to vote for her.

"Remember, a vote for me is a vote for you," she said in her campaign speech. "And I approve this message."

"It's cool," said Elisha Lovett, 9, another one of the 10 candidates in Brown's classroom, of the opportunity to serve on the Student Council. "You get to go to meetings. People get to know you better and if someone needs help, maybe you can help them."

But before these young voters could decide just who got to do that, they were treated to some advice from County Commissioner Pat Mulieri, who paid a visit to the eligible fourth- and fifth-grade voters at the school.

The gist of her message?

Be an educated voter.

"You have to use your brain," she told the students. "You can't believe everything you read or see on TV."

Students also had the opportunity to pore over local candidates' literature that Mulieri provided from the recent county election. Mulieri, who used to teach a class in propaganda techniques at Pasco-Hernando Community College, then instructed students to seek out various buzz words used to target voters and to look for the negative and positive campaign tactics that were used.

Mulieri's visit was a real-life enhancement to what students have been learning in the classroom, Brown said. "It lets them see an actual elected official."

"The election has been a theme since the beginning of the (school) year," Brown said, noting the focus began with the explanation of class rules. "They learned about the rights and freedoms we have to vote. We learned what a county commissioner does."

And they have dabbled some in the presidential elections.

When it comes to making that choice, her students tend to think along parental lines, Brown said.

Raiza Aguilar, wasn't altogether sure whom she wanted to be the next president but had an idea of the qualities she would like to see in that person.

"Is there a girl in it?" she asked. "If there is, I'd vote for her if she's nice and smart. I want a person that is very good and will lower the parents' taxes."

As for Student Council? Well Raiza, 9, said she was leaning toward candidate Heather Shagoury.

"She's smart and helpful. She's a whiz at taking care of the school," Raiza said. "And she always comes early."

Note: Mary Miltner won the Student Council election held in Debbie Brown's classroom.

Educate yourself

Looking for a good educational resource about democracy and the electoral process? Check out Kids Voting Tampa Bay at www.kvtb.org. The nonpartisan, nonprofit group is part of a national effort that is all about empowering youngsters. Sure, they might be too young to vote, but it's never too early to learn the meaning of civic duty .

Mary Giella Elementary School students learn about election process 09/16/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 10:09pm]
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