The government teachers at Cosby High School are determined to instill in seniors the value of using their constitutional right to vote. They go about this in many ways, from encouraging students to write to the local paper, to bringing actual political candidates to Cosby so students can learn more about their campaigns. Renee Serrao, one of the government teachers, says, “If we can convince high school seniors that their voice matters, studies show that they’ll be lifelong voters.”
This past fall, all six of the 10th and 11th district candidates running for Virginia’s State Senate visited Cosby in order to further educate students on the issues they support. The eventual winners, republicans Amanda Chase and Glen Sturtevant, along with democrats Wayne Powell and Dan Gecker, Independent Marlene Durfee and Libertarian Carl Loser, all visited Cosby High School. After the election series, the Politics Club also hosted 7th district Congressman Dave Brat, who appeared to discuss issues important in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Each of the six after-school forums attracted close to one hundred students. After the senate hopefuls provided background on their beliefs and campaign, they answered questions from the audience. The questions varied from forum to forum, but the one question that was asked each time was whether or not the politician was in favor of legalizing marijuana.
Daniel Wagner, the member of the Politics Club who was responsible for greeting the candidates as they arrived, was very glad to be involved in the forums. “I think it’s really cool that we as high school students have the opportunity to have our voices heard,” Wagner says.
Serrao says, “Every year, I’m pleasantly surprised at the willingness of candidates and officeholders to come to our school and take random questions from teenagers. They often comment afterwards that it’s been their favorite event of the week.”
In the future, Serrao hopes to draw a wider range of political speakers to Cosby. “Perhaps surrogates for presidential candidates, for example. And I’d love to schedule a visit from an author, perhaps Kristen Green, who wrote the wonderful memoir Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County.” So, as the year progresses, look forward to even more interesting guests visiting Cosby to educate young voters on the importance of their role in local politics.