Nakashima edges Valentine! Incumbent holds onto after-school office

Nov 6 2012 - 7:44pm

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(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Children line up to vote at a mock election during a YMCA after-school program at T.O. Smith Elementary School in Ogden on Tuesday.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) YMCA Community Coordinator Kathleen Maag hands Jordan Wilson an "I Voted," sticker after he cast his ballot at a mock election during a YMCA after-school program at T.O. Smith Elementary School in Ogden on Tuesday.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Vote signs adorn the entrance to the gym at a mock election during a YMCA after-school program at T.O. Smith Elementary School in Ogden on Tuesday.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Joseph Sperry casts his vote at a mock election during a YMCA after-school program at T.O. Smith Elementary School in Ogden on Tuesday.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Toby Valentine walks out of the voting booth at a mock election during a YMCA after-school program at T.O. Smith Elementary School in Ogden on Tuesday.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Children line up to vote at a mock election during a YMCA after-school program at T.O. Smith Elementary School in Ogden on Tuesday.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) YMCA Community Coordinator Kathleen Maag hands Jordan Wilson an "I Voted," sticker after he cast his ballot at a mock election during a YMCA after-school program at T.O. Smith Elementary School in Ogden on Tuesday.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Vote signs adorn the entrance to the gym at a mock election during a YMCA after-school program at T.O. Smith Elementary School in Ogden on Tuesday.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Joseph Sperry casts his vote at a mock election during a YMCA after-school program at T.O. Smith Elementary School in Ogden on Tuesday.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Toby Valentine walks out of the voting booth at a mock election during a YMCA after-school program at T.O. Smith Elementary School in Ogden on Tuesday.

OGDEN -- President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney weren't the only people looking for votes Tuesday.

T.O. Smith YMCA students Sasha Nakashima and Toby Valentine were doing the same thing. The school's YMCA after-school program conducted its own election to help students have a better grasp on the national election.

T.O. Smith YMCA site coordinator Kara Honaker got the idea while unloading new chairs and noticing that the cardboard boxes resembled voting booths.

"I told everyone we should make voting booths out of those boxes, and this quirky idea came about," Honaker said with a laugh.

She then went to work with her students, talking about elections and how some presidents run for re-election and others try to unseat them.

The after-school program held a student council election when school first started, and Sasha was elected president. The students liked the idea of having another candidate run against her for a November election.

Over the past two weeks, students created the voting booths out of cardboard boxes, cut-up shower curtains, PVC pipe and red construction paper. They made campaign signs, gave speeches and campaigned.

Each candidate also chose a vice president. That got interesting when Toby chose Sasha's sister, Jayliyah, to be his running mate.

"It has made it exciting," Honaker said.

"I was hurt, shocked and appalled she didn't choose me to be her vice president, but it's OK," Jayliyah said with a little grin.

"Yeah, we're pretty competitive," Sasha said as the two stood with their arms around each other.

"I will be happy if we win, I will be happy if she wins. It's just a win-win," Jayliyah said.

Honaker said the sisters are real leaders in the after-school program and always help everyone. She has been very pleased with how successful the whole campaign process has been with the students.

"You plant an idea -- and then all these questions came up," Honaker said.

Students have had questions about how elections work and have also come up with many ideas about how they would like their after-school program to work.

The two "presidential candidates" gave speeches and held a brief debate before their constituents voted. Students peppered the candidates with questions ranging from what kind of treats the candidates would provide to whether they would give them extra YMCA money.

But the candidates didn't always tell the students what they wanted to hear. They told them they would monitor behavior closely, and often started responses with, "I have to be honest ..."

YMCA teacher and debate moderator Kathleen Maag helped the students understand the process as it went along and worked with the other teachers to make sure students knew the voting and vote count was completely honest and aboveboard. She also talked about how the actual election worked and how the students' election mirrored the one in which adults were participating.

Once they voted, many students whispered who they voted for and worked on homework as they waited for the winner to be announced.

Students also voted on two amendments: one that would allow for soccer to be their official sport, and one for extra outside time.

Sixth-grader Alexis Villicana said the process taught him a lot, both about himself and the future.

"I should have run, because these guys need me to be their leader," he said.

He knows he wants to be more involved in the future. It also makes him look forward to voting in a real election when he's old enough.

"It makes me excited, but it's a lot of pressure. It is important."

When the votes were counted, Sasha was re-elected. It was a narrow victory -- by one vote. Sasha was excited to still be able to lead and gave a big smile and thumbs-up to Toby.

Then she grinned.

"Like we said, every vote counts."

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