High school students meet candidates, share ideas

Students feel more informed, motivated to vote after in-class meetings

Thunder Mountain High School senior Joshua Dore wanted to share his experience with an Assembly candidate, and got his opportunity Wednesday morning.


Dore was one of three students in a group putting together an informational page on Loretto Jones, who is running in the Oct. 3 election for the District 1 Assembly seat. Jones was sharing some of her experiences with the group, which also included seniors Josh Elmore and Cameron Okins.

“I was telling Loretto about having to clean up needles behind Fred Meyer,” Dore said. “I work over there, and my manager and I had to go pick up beer bottles and needles.”

Experiences and ideas were flying in TMHS teacher Mara Sheakley-Early’s first-hour government class Wednesday morning, as four candidates in this fall’s election sat down with groups of students and discussed their views and platforms.

Three government classes at Thunder Mountain have spent the past couple weeks interviewing all 10 candidates and putting together informational pages that will be put together into a voter guide, Sheakley-Early said. She’s not sure how widespread the guide will go, but she hopes that it will be distributed at Monday night’s candidate forum and that it will go out electronically to some of the teachers in the district.

While Dore spoke with Jones, District 1 Assembly candidate Jesse Kiehl and Board of Education candidate Jeff Short discussed their major priorities and asked questions to students. In the hallway, Board of Education candidate and recent Thunder Mountain graduate Kevin Allen compared his experience in math classes and student clubs with current students.

Senior Christian Dorn, who’s working with District 1 Assembly candidate Chuck Collins this week, said he’s tried to make the most of his opportunity to talk with Collins and other candidates.

“It’s pretty interesting because you don’t really get the chance to have a one-on-one conversation about the issues of Juneau, really,” Dorn said. “Us as students, I feel like it’s pretty cool to have an opportunity to do that, unlike other people who want to but can’t directly talk to them.”

Sheakley-Early said that in each of her six years at Thunder Mountain, the students have somehow gotten a firsthand look at the election every year. Some years candidates come in and talk to students and sometimes the students make a voter guide like this year. Sheakley-Early said it just depends on the year.

Groups of students in each of the three classes will create an informational guide on their assigned candidate, and this Friday they’ll send their page to the candidate. The candidate will then choose his or her favorite of the three, and that page will go in the voter guide that Sheakley-Early puts together. That guide will then be distributed.

The class Wednesday morning was all seniors, and many of them are eligible to vote in this fall’s election. Dorn said he feels much more prepared now to make an informed decision when he votes.

Emma Kaelke, a senior who turns 18 just next week, didn’t think she was going to vote in this election. She didn’t feel like she had quite a good enough grasp on the issues and the candidates, she said, until the candidates came to class.

Her group spoke with Board of Education President Brian Holst, who is running for re-election this fall. From talking with Holst and learning more about what the Board of Education does, she now knows how much her vote can affect the future of Thunder Mountain and the other schools in the district.

“It didn’t really seem like something I would care about,” Kaelke said of the election, “but I care a lot more now knowing that they’re gonna be here and I want the rest of the kids in high school to have a good experience as well.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com.


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