OGDEN — Mitt Romney isn’t the only one looking to take over for President Barack Obama.
About 50 Polk Elementary students are also vying for the job and spent Tuesday convincing friends and family they were equal to the task with rousing speeches.
The students, ranging from third to sixth grades, are part of the Polk Enrichment Program, a pilot program new to the school and the Ogden School District this year. Twelve students from each of the participating grades upper grades are taken out of class for an hour a day for enrichment activities.
Students are selected by teachers to participate in the program based on test scores, class behavior and an academic need for enrichment. It’s a “revolving door” class where students are involved in the program for six weeks at a time and then a new group of students gets to participate.
For the first six weeks the students have been learning about the election process, said Nancy Blair, the teacher who leads PEP. Students have researched and written persuasive speeches, made campaign posters and brochures and also had the chance for a “free” assignment where they could research a topic of their choice. Blair’s class was full of campaign signs as well as projects ranging from facts about the state of Utah to the solar system to the history of the doughnut.
Blair worked with teacher-librarian Shelley Ripplinger to teach the students how to use research tools on the Internet to gather information on presidential speeches and campaigns as well as issues the current candidates are facing. Blair also showed students famous presidential speeches to help them understand how to prepare a speech.
Blair loved the way the students used those as a springboard for their own speeches.
“They put emphasis on their words and talked about traveling all over the world, which I thought was really cool that they picked up on that from Kennedy’s speech,” Blair said.
Parents sat attentively as each student stood up to presidential music playing as they approached the microphone. In the background a video was set up that read, “Please welcome the next president of the United States.”
Students urged voters to vote for them and many brought up current issues like raising or lower taxes and how they would handle the national debt. Gun control and homelessness were also hot topics.
Many students told personal stories of why they felt passionate about particular things.
“Whenever I see someone on the street homeless it breaks my heart,” fourth-grader Juliann Stein said.
Fourth-grader Eva Dove encouraged people to vote for the “first extraordinary woman president.”
Fifth-grader Samuel Edwards was greeted with “Vote Samuel Edwards” signs that his parents brought.
“I would help small businesses and hire more people,” Edwards said during his speech. “I love America and I know you deserve the best.”
Blair couldn’t stop smiling as she watched her students perform.
Having the PEP program at Polk has long been a dream of Blair’s. Last year when Superintendent Brad Smith asked how she would like to see the school improve, she pitched her idea and he told her to do it.
Blair meets regularly with the organizers of the Davis School District’s School Enrichment Model program and said she is greatly appreciative of how they have taken her under their wing.
She has also been thrilled with how smoothly the program has run so far and credits that to new Polk Principal Maridee Harrison.
Harrison, too, couldn’t stop smiling as the students performed their speeches.
“It’s amazing to watch these kids take off and develop. They are our future and they are amazing,” Harrison said.
She is excited that so many kids will get a chance to participate in the enrichment program throughout the year.
“Every kid is advanced in their own area,” she said.
She has watched for the last six weeks as the students have worked very hard on their campaigns.
“They don’t say they have to do it, they say they get to do it,” she said with a smile.
Blair is happy watching the students as well. “I just love watching them fly as high as they can. The sky is the limit.”