Poll work gives Mt. Vernon students real-life civics lesson

By Brad Swanson: 

More than 70 high school students helped orient voters and sign up volunteers in Mt. Vernon District during the Super Tuesday Democratic presidential primary on Mar. 3, in which Fairfax County turnout surged. (Blue View story on primary results here ).

For the Mt. Vernon District Democratic Committee members staffing the information tables it was a much-needed boost in manpower. And for the students it was a chance to participate in the first stages of the historic 2020 general election.

“It really excited me because there’s such a strong sense of community,” said Olivia Henry, a senior at Hayfield Secondary School, who came to her assigned district at 5:30 am to help open up.

“Some people were first time voters, some coming with their parents. They were the ones that got me so excited, seeing that spark in their eyes.”

The project assigned an estimated 73 students, most seniors from Hayfield or Mount  Vernon High School, to the 26 precincts of Mt. Vernon District. The students worked alongside adult committee members, sitting at tables or roaming with clipboards, to help voters understand which candidacies were still active.

Just as important, the students helped sign up volunteers to assist the Fairfax County Democratic Committee in campaign activity. Hundreds of volunteers signed up on the day, according to Maria Vorel, vice-chair of precinct operations for the Mt. Vernon committee.

Vorel, a retired emergency management senior leader, piloted the project, in which students earned  credit for public service hours, which are needed for graduation.

“The highlight of the day was talking to the students, who were so poised, so helpful and so pleasant,” said Vorel. “These students are really on the ball, and gave me hope for the future.”

Vorel pointed out that studies show that young people who experience civic engagement by age 14 are much more likely to be engaged in civic activity as adults.

Vorel, who has been active in the Mt. Vernon committee for more than 15 years, plans to continue the high school recruitment program and to expand  it to West Potomac High School.

Photo: Samia Burgess was among more than 70 high school students helping orient voters in Mt. Vernon District during the Super Tuesday primary/ Photo by Maria Vorel


Brad Swanson is the editor of The Blue View 


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