OGDEN -- It's not every day that the start of a mayoral debate is decided by rock, paper, scissors. But on Friday afternoon, Ogden candidates Brandon Stephenson and Mike Caldwell did just that in Ogden High School auditorium.
The two squared off in a debate that was completely run by Jaci Durtschi's Advanced Placement government class. The class is learning about the political process, so Durtschi thought having the candidates come to debate issues would be a perfect opportunity for students to get hands-on learning.
"We followed the political process all the way through," said senior Jeff Brown, the debate mediator. Students worked in groups to devise the best questions to ask and to select the mediator and get the auditorium ready for the debate.
Other government and United States history classes were in the audience. About 150 attended and sat quietly and respectfully as the candidates discussed issues that were of interest to the students.
"I had some students come up to me and tell me this would be their first election to be able to vote and they were thrilled to be able to hear from us," Caldwell said.
Stephenson said he jumped at the chance to be able to address the students and was impressed with them.
"It was designed in a format for them to learn that they can't get any other way," Stephenson said.
Students voted on issues to address and then submitted questions within those categories. Later, students and the public were invited to ask open questions.
Questions ranged from how candidates would bring more jobs to the city to how they felt about immigration laws in relation to Ogden. Students got a little more in-depth with questions on combating crime and drugs; specifically, gang crimes. Environmental issues and cleaner government questions were also asked.
Stephenson said he enjoyed the chance to answer some questions he hadn't had a chance to share before. Caldwell agreed.
"It's important for students to get involved early in the democratic process," he said.
Junior Cole Stern asked about the environment and was very happy to have participated in the event. He says that although he is only 16 and won't vote for two more years, he believes it's his job to be a part of the process in some way.
"We are surrendering our rights as citizens if we don't accept the duty to be involved with the political process," he said.
Senior Emily Sheffield is in the AP government class and she was very impressed with how the debate went and with the process her class went through to get there.
"I was excited. So many teenagers don't care at all and it was great to see so many involved," she said. "For some of my friends it is their first election."