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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
BY GABRIELLE CALISE, Palm Harbor University High
Above the noise of nasty campaign advertisements and political feuds on Facebook and Twitter, the voice of St. Petersburg High senior Katherine MacTaggart is loud and clear.
“When I was 13, I realized that I’d be able to vote in this election. That’s when I definitely started becoming really involved in politics,” said MacTaggart. “I’ve just been very excited to turn 18 and register to vote, and then go out and make my voice heard.”
MacTaggart hasn’t let the dirty side of politics get in the way of the thrill of voting for the first time, and she said she hasn’t let the views of her conservative parents be her compass, either.
“I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to what I believe in, so they haven’t had as much of an influence as they would like to have on my political decisions,” she said.
Even though her parents have learned there isn’t much they can do to change her mind, MacTaggart said, they are excited for her to finally be able to vote, regardless of which candidate she supports.
“It can get a little awkward at family dinners when politics are brought up … but we don’t get vicious or anything. We all respect each other’s opinions.”
MacTaggart’s backpack sports a “Women for Obama” pin, and she is quick to name women’s health care as the most important issue for her in this election.
“I think it’s really important that we have a say with what we do with our bodies,” she said. “No one else has that right besides us.”
In the next four years, she said she hopes to see progress: an improved economy. Equal pay for women. She wants everyone to have the right to get married, and thinks everyone should have access to a higher education, no matter what their income is.
MacTaggart uses Politifact (a project of the Tampa Bay Times) and factchecker.org to learn as much as she can about these issues and more. These websites are especially helpful when it comes to sifting through rumors and political advertisements.
“So many people have become dishonest with (politics),” she said. “I think if you are questioning something you should definitely research it for yourself and find out what’s true and not true. ... Don’t just go in there without having researched anything. You need to make an informed decision.”
MacTaggart’s current investigation involves learning more about the nine constitutional amendments as well as the candidates for senator (so far she likes Bill Nelson) and state representative. But no matter what political party you associate yourself with or who you think will do the best job leading our country, MacTaggart wants you to get out there and vote. She is excited to walk into the polls for the first time on Tuesday after school.
“It’s kind of nerve-racking, because, you know, it’s a big decision,” she said. “This is a right that a lot of people don’t have, and you should definitely take full advantage of it. … I think that’s probably one of the most important things you can do.”