For Young Voters, A Chance to Learn


CONCORD N.H. (Jan. 6, 2012) –For 18-year-old Kelsey Crowley, the  upcoming presidential election is special. It’s the first time she’ll get to vote.

“Just the responsibility of voting and being informed is so important,” said Crowley, a senior at Newburyport High School in northern Massachussetts near the New Hampshire border. So she is taking it seriously, she said.

Crowley is among the students at the 2012 New England College Convention in New Hampshire in the lead-up to the state’s primary on Jan. 10. The convention gathered college and High School students from across the United States in Concord to learn about the candidates, the issues and the election process. As of Thursday, the students had, for example, heard from Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum.

The convention is a thrilling opportunity for his students, said AP history teacher Tim Finn of John Stark High School near Concord. He’s been bringing his students to the convention since 2000.  “In New Hampshire, we have a unique opportunity to actually meet the candidates,” he said. “To be close to them, shake their hands and ask questions is something that my students and I find exciting.”

Two of his students — Abigail Currier, 17, and Eva Childers, 16 — agreed. Neither of them are old enough to vote yet. But, they said, the want to be prepared.

“I’m here hoping that I can learn from the Republican candidates,” Currier said, “so I can listen to them and hear what their policies are so that I can be better informed when I cast my vote.”

Added Childers: “It’s just nice to see where my future is headed because obviously the president is going to change the future of our country.” Of the convention, she said, “By coming here I can talk to people about my opinions and views based on what I’ve seen.”

For Leah Campbell, 17, of Newburyport High School, the convention experience is unlike anything she’s ever seen. “One of our peers got into a heated conversation about gay marriage with Rick Santorum yesterday,” Leah said, “and it was interesting to see and hear about it later on in the news. It was neat to be part of it all.”

For her part, Kelsey Crowley of Newburyport, is still undecided about which party she will register with for her first election in November. The decision will be harder now that she has been exposed to the different candidates, she said. And she has this advice for other young people:

“Get involved early so that you can have a better understanding of what you should be looking for in candidates, Kelsey said. “You have a choice of who potentially could run your county and just seeing this all in front of you is fascinating — young people in this audience can make a difference just by asking a question.”

(Sistina Giordano, a graduate student in the magazine, newspaper and online journalism program at Syracuse University, is covering the New Hampshire primary for The Citizen of Auburn, N.Y.)


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