Hazen students learn valuable hands-on civics lessons

December 9, 2008

By Chris Nguyen

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Hazen High School seniors Carli Sowder (left) and Abbey Capistran assist a voter with a provisional ballot at Hazelwood Elementary School on Election Day. Photo contributed

Hazen High School seniors Carli Sowder (left) and Abbey Capistran assist a voter with a provisional ballot at Hazelwood Elementary School on Election Day. Photo contributed

 

More than 140 Hazen High School students contributed to the democratic process while working at polling sites Election Day throughout Newcastle, Renton and south King County. 

As part of the county’s Youth with a Vision program, the students staffed nearly 50 polling stations. They had the opportunity to work in one of three key roles: greeters, provisional judges or AccuVote machine supervisors. Prior to the election, King County elections representatives traveled to Hazen to conduct a three-hour training session to prepare students for their duties.

Brett Crueger, social studies and theater arts teacher, spearheaded the group’s participation. He said school administrators were very supportive of the project.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the kids,” he said. “They’re going to remember how they contributed to the election for the rest of their lives.”

Kim Vu, of Newcastle, said it was inspiring to see a handful of the students working at her polling location at Hazelwood Elementary School.

“It’s always great to see young people taking an active leadership role in our community,” she said. “We’re definitely in good hands for the future.”

While most poll workers in King County typically get paid about $150 for working Election Day, the students’ earnings went directly to Hazen’s Associated Student Body general fund.

At the end of the day, the participants had raised more than $21,000 to be used toward milestone activities, such as the Senior Ball.

“The initial motivation to participate may have been for the money,” Crueger said. “But overall, they saw it as an opportunity to take part in something bigger than themselves.”

Hazen had more than double the number of students than any other high school in the county participate, said Randy Matheson, Renton School District spokesman. 

Aside from the fundraising aspect of the program, participants were able to earn community service credits while soaking in the entire Election Day experience.

“Students really enjoyed seeing voters come together from different walks of life to participate in democracy,” Crueger said. “They could sense by the number of voters at the polls that it was going to be a very historic election.”

This election is the last time poll workers were used. King County plans to switch to all-mail voting by next spring.

Chris Nguyen is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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