Students focus on why local elections are important
What would you do if the park district closed the local gym because of budget problems?
What if the city stopped providing garbage pickup and your street became infested with raccoons?
First, you'd get mad. Then, you'd have to make your voice heard in the consolidated election, which takes place April 9.
That's the serious message in a humorous video produced by a group of six students from the Youth Leadership Academy in Elgin, a selective program for economically disadvantaged kids in seventh to 12th grades.
The video served as this year's service learning project for the group. It was edited by Tiger Khokunthod, a freshman at the Beacon Academy at South Elgin High School.
Elgin High School freshman Anthony Ruiz, a member of the group, said he never knew there were so many different levels of government, from city council to park and library boards.
"I think a lot of people are just focused on the main national election, but I think we need to focus a lot on the local election, too," Ruiz said.
"Maybe there's a law passed nationally, but maybe something else is going to affect us even more locally -- like garbage. At the national level, the election doesn't deal with something like keeping our streets clean, but the local election, it does."
The students were mentored by Elgin Councilwoman Tish Powell, who serves as a 10th-grade trainer for YLA. Powell said she was a natural match for the project.
"If we capture young people's interest now in voting, it will continue throughout their entire lifetime," she said.
Also, kids can be a great vehicle to bring back messages to their parents, she said.
"My goal is to get the kids as excited to turn 18 and getting to register to vote as when they turn 16 and they get their driver's license."
That might sound like a lofty goal, but Berenice Gomez, a sophomore at Larkin High School, said she's indeed looking forward to her 18th birthday.
Gomez plays "Election Girl" in the video, a superhero figure with a mask and silver cape who educates others about the importance of the consolidated election. She said she was particularly intrigued by hearing candidates speak at local election forums, another part of the service learning project.
"Seeing all the people talk about what they want to help us out in, it makes me really excited to turn 18 and start voting," Gomez said.
Ruiz agreed. "Based on this project, I saw even more why it's important to vote," he said.
"(Elected officials) are the voice for us. We need to elect somebody that we can trust, and not leave it up to some other people to do it for us."
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