High school students get an up-close civics lesson today | TahoeDailyTribune.com

High school students get an up-close civics lesson today

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily TribuneJuniors from South Tahoe High School will be helping out at the polls today, including, from back, Phillip Butz, Allison Eckerson and Abraham Lemus, and in front, Nikia Breyman and Teresa Chavez.

The California presidential primary election is today, and as you vote, you might just encounter a South Tahoe High School student helping at your precinct.

The students recognize the historical significance.

“It’s a chance for a woman or an African-American to be president,” said STHS junior Robben Charles.

Charles will be among the 13 STHS students working at the polls today through the Student Pollworker Program sponsored by the El Dorado County Elections Department, said STHS teacher Suzy Allione. Students from other El Dorado County high schools also will participate.

All candidates in both parties are strong, so the race is competitive, which makes for a good election, Charles said.

Allione said she taught her students that certain elections stand out in history, and this will be one of them.

“I told them: ‘You’re going to be telling your grandkids about the 2008 election,’ ” she recalled.

Participating in the program allows students to bolster their college résumé, miss a day of school and get paid. Each student receives $95 for a full day’s work and $45 for a half-day.

Election clerks receive the same compensation, though election inspectors and judges make more money but must attend a training class.

Many of the students are working the full day, which lasts from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Most students said they’d save half the money and spend the rest, while others said they’d use it to fill up their gas tanks. Shari Warden, an STHS junior and program participant, said she’s planning to put the money toward a pass at Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort.

The program’s goals are to encourage students to participate in the election, educate them in the electoral process and instill civic responsibility and knowledge of election procedures. It was suspended three to four years ago, but the El Dorado County Elections Department reinstated it this year, Allione said.

Students have to be at least 16 years old, have a 2.5 grade-point average and obtain permission from a guardian and teacher to participate.

“It’s really good to know about the election process before voting,” Warden said.

Participating STHS junior Nikia Breyman said she’s curious to see how many people will vote in the election. Other students think a lot of people will show up.

“As long as it doesn’t snow,” said STHS junior Allison Eckerson.

The polls also can be a mystery, because many students never have been there before, Allione said. The experience exposes students to the process, so it will be less intimidating when they become voters.

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