This election year, our middle school scholars are taking a hands-on approach to civics education. Middle schoolers ran their own simulation presidential campaign in history class last week to learn about the electoral college, fundraising, and the strategy behind campaign stops. The next day, they filled out a non-partisan framework that helped them decide what issues they care about, and then they had the chance to cast their votes for president through a national online student voting platform sponsored by Newsela, Rock the Vote, and other partners.
We spoke with Success Academy Harlem East sixth grader Kessewa Bekoe, who took part in these activities, to ask her what she learned and what she thinks about this year’s presidential candidates.
Tell us about the simulation campaign you ran in class. What did you learn?
Last week, I ran five simulated campaigns in one day — I won three and I lost two. I was pretty sad when I lost, but it was still a lot of fun. It opened my eyes to how hard campaigning is and how much strategy is involved. You have to get so much support and funding from states and you need to go there and convince voters that you care about the issues they have. I used to think that candidates just went to different states and campaigned, and then at the end whoever has the most votes wins, but at one point I campaigned in a state with a lot of Republican voters and thought I could win the electoral votes as a Democrat, but I didn’t. I feel like I understand the electoral college much better.
You also got the chance to vote. How did you decide?
I decided to vote for Hillary. I think when you decide to vote, you have to weigh a lot of the issues that you care about. I care about making the world safe and making America an inclusive place. I want Hillary to work on global peace and stopping ISIS. I do think we should stop ISIS. But I don’t like that Donald Trump wants to build a wall to keep us safe. I think that’s discriminatory. I came here from Ghana when I was one year old, and I think America has a tradition of welcoming immigrants. We should be careful about who we let in and make sure they’re not bad, but we should welcome immigrants, especially if they come from places where things are really tough or violent. I think Hillary will help make that happen. And she has experience, too!
Where does your interest in politics come from?
I really have to thank my dad for that. We sit together almost every night and watch CNN and MSNBC, and we talk about politics and the issues. A lot of my classmates spend time watching cartoons and stuff, but my dad and I watch the news together and I really like it.
Why should kids care about the election?
I think everyone should care about the election — especially older teenagers who are able to vote for the first time. They’re going to be America’s future and I think the choice they make this year could have a lot of consequences for a long time. They should really think carefully about the next president! Kids are the future of politics and should learn about how to make these decisions on who to vote for.
Do you think you’ll be involved in politics when you’re an adult?
Yes! I want to be a politician — maybe the Secretary of State. But at the very least, I’d like to be a lawyer. At most — president!