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November 04. 2012 8:26PM

Oyster River High School students focus on politics in Durham


Flanked by members of the "Secret Service," student Emily Croot, 15, gives a speech as President Barack Obama during a mock election rally at Oyster River High School on Friday. (GRETYL MACALASTER PHOTO)

DURHAM - Flanked by members of the "Secret Service," students made a pitch for the presidency at Oyster River High School on Friday.

Four civics classes at the high school took their mock election to new levels this year, with weeks of campaigning, research and speech writing in advance of a rally held in the auditorium on Friday.

Four students took on the roles of Vice-Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, and Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

The students delivered well-researched speeches that touched on every major issue to have faced the campaign, including the economy, the national debt, entitlement programs and health care.

The students even used entrance music from the Spotify play lists of each campaign for authenticity.

Following speeches from each of the candidates and their campaign managers, the four students held a "press briefing" with members of the high school's journalism class, while students in video production filmed the event from various angles.

Citizenship education teachers Derek Cangello and Matt Pappas held a similar event during the 2008 Presidential election and said it was a great way to get students engaged in the election process.

"We live in a democratic society so kids learning and understanding the process is really critical. All these kids will be 18 someday," Pappas said.

He said when campaign posters started appearing, they were pretty generic, but as students watched the debates and researched their candidates, the messages became more issue-specific.

Emily Croot, 15, portrayed Obama and said she started her research with the campaign's official website. She was also sure to see how his opponent portrayed him on his own campaign website.

She said finding unbiased information was not always easy. She used a college database that had collected beliefs and ideas of each candidate point by point and watched the three debates.

Croot said if she was voting today, she would still be undecided.

"I think, especially in this town being a very democratic town, it is important to get both sides of the story," Croot said.

Principal Todd Allen was impressed with the student's level of engagement with the process.

"I thought they did a wonderful job. In some ways, they were more articulate than some of the candidates," Allen said. "It was clear they understood their candidates and the issues."

During the afternoon's two lunch periods, ballots were cast by students in the mock election. In the end, the Democrats swept the ticket. Obama came out the winner with 67 percent of the vote. Romney received 27 percent and write-in Ron Paul received 6 percent.

In the Governor's race, Democrat Maggie Hassan came away with 73 percent of the student vote, followed by Republican Ovide Lamontagne with 27 percent. In the race for Congress, Carol Shea-Porter earned 72 percent of the vote followed by Republican Frank Guinta with 28 percent.

About 300 students voted.

gmacalaster@unionleader.com


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