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Getting involved with political process

Private school gives its students three ways to learn: volunteer, work the polls, or write a paper.

October 20, 2010|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com
  • Seniors in Colleen Faris' U.S. government class at Brethren Christian in Huntington Beach, listen to city council candidate Barbara Delgleize in class Monday.
Seniors in Colleen Faris' U.S. government class… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Seniors at a local private school are getting more than the typical semester of government education as they meet City Council candidates first hand and learn how to get involved.

Brethren Christian Junior and Senior High School teacher Colleen Faris is using the upcoming elections to bring her government class to life and for some students, the experience has brought out the discerning voter within.

"It's really opened my eyes to how important city government is," said Kelsey McGinnis, a student.

The 17-year-old was one of a handful of students Monday who has gotten involved in a local campaign.

The students have seen about six council candidates and both city attorney candidates who have come to the classroom to pitch themselves, explain how to get involved in their campaign and answer questions.

The students then have to spend four hours volunteering for the candidate of their choice, work the polls on election day, or write a research paper on a proposition.

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Kelsey spent her four hours going door-to-door hanging fliers on doorknobs for candidate Erik Peterson.

Peterson was the first speaker and was initially a popular candidate because of his facial hair, said Faris, a Huntington Beach resident.

Facial hair aside, Kelsey said she found Peterson to be down-to-earth, knew what he was talking about and seemed to really care about the city.

Although not able to vote yet, Kelsey said the class has her paying attention to city politics — something she never cared about before. She is even encouraging her parents to look into who they are voting for.

Fellow classmate Daniel Wade said he is also talking to family and friends about the importance of getting informed, but unlike Kelsey, he has his first chance voting this election.

Wade said he originally was in the mindset of "I'm in high school, I'm not going to worry about voting," but now he thinks it's cool to get involved.

Wade said he is was very impressed with candidate Barbara Delgleize, the day's speaker, and found her educated and with a point-of-view.

The assignment came out of Faris' fear that her first-time voters would pick a candidate based on a campaign sign, so she decided to invite all the candidates to her classroom.

"I wanted my students to pick the person that most impressed them and have them feel powerful," she said. "I wanted to make it alive for them."

Faris said she watched the students learn to ask better questions. They quizzed candidates about pensions and how each plans to address it, and they asked the city attorney about the current litigation over the school's gym.

"They've been really kind of changed by this process," she said. "It's been cool to watch."

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