MAES students get real-life lesson in voting

August 28, 2018

BULLHEAD CITY — “I Voted” stickers — and candy for some luckier participants — in exchange for voting sounds like a sweet transaction.

On Monday afternoon, about 400 students at Mohave Accelerated Elementary School chose their student government representatives by ballot after listening to short speeches by 10 candidates for five offices on MAES’s Student Council. The song “Hail to the Chief” played over the loudspeaker as students entered the school gym to exercise their right to vote and sat down on the floor. Red, white and blue decorations were on display to enhance the feeling of civic pride.

Erika VanWhye, MAES’ elementary student council advisor, asked them to be good listeners, to sit nicely and quietly, and to keep their hands to themselves.

“Be respectful,” she told the children once they were settled. “It takes a lot of courage to talk in front of 400 kids.”

The children on the floor gasped in response to the number. And a couple of the candidates seated in front of them looked somewhat uncomfortable but ultimately delivered persuasive speeches.

The youths seeking office took the campaign process seriously, with posters hanging on the wall in the school gym. They were well groomed and carried index cards to help them remember what they wanted to say. One girl had on a sparkly dress and matching shoes. A boy wore a tie — and not a clip-on style.

Behind each of the candidates as they spoke was the projection of a short bio explaining what grade and class they are in, as well as some of their favorite things to do.

Secretary candidate Sophie Schmaltz said she was “hard working,” “open minded” and “organized.” Chloe Lucas, treasurer candidate, said she was “great at math” and “responsible.” Public relations candidate Giovanni Barrios said: “If someone is sad, I’ll ask them to play with me.”

Vice presidential candidate Mika Kern looked to the White House for some inspiration, saying “If you vote for me, I’ll make MALC great again.” And Laisyc Conlogue, presidential candidate, was inspirational and aspirational in saying he wanted to be a leader and good role model: “I believe in putting yourself out there — and believe you can all do the same.”

Candidates’ pictures were printed alongside their first names so even the younger children still working on their reading skills knew which person they were choosing.

VanWhye said the students came in knowing something about each post because their teachers talked about the election beforehand.

The winning candidates were (their opponents are also noted below because, as VanWhye said, running for office takes courage):

President: Laisyc Conlogue (opponent Jasmine Garcia)

Vice President: Mika Kern (opponent Kimberly Osuna)

Public Relations: Giovanni Barrios (opponent Lexus Pettycord)

Treasurer: Chloe Lucas (opponent Emily Morgan)

Secretary: Sophie Schmaltz (opponent Alyssa Donegan)

The school has been holding election assemblies for four years now and “are a big deal,” VanWhye added.

It was also a way to show children the importance of voting ahead of today’s primary election in Arizona.

And, just to keep things on the up-and-up, there was no candy bribery because the small packages of AirHeads weren’t given out until a student was preparing to turn in a completed ballot. The candy ran out well before all the ballots were turned in.

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