On Thursday and Friday, teams from Hayes High School participated in a mock debate for the upcoming U.S. Senate race between Tim Ryan and J.D. Vance.
The debate was organized by social studies teacher Adam Haynes, who said he wanted to give students a chance to do research into the candidates and learn debate skills. The debate was conducted by a team for each candidate and spanned two days. During the debate, the teams discussed inflation and the economy, college affordability, the environment and China.
Haynes said he wanted to give students a realistic experience and let them participate in the election since many are still too young to vote.
“I love teaching, and I think it’s important to instill an active civic mindset in our students and provide them with an authentic way to learn,” Haynes said. “Since most of our students aren’t able to vote, this is a great way to get them engaged and participate, even if it’s just a mock debate. I’m appreciative that we are able to build these programs thanks to the support of the administration.”
Hayes juniors Eric Gitson, Delaney Nelson, and Josie Morrow represented Ryan during the debate opposite Hayes seniors Molly Wells, Kasey Wells, and Mae Zhen Clark, who represented Vance.
The Wells sisters said they were very interested in taking part in the debate since they had been volunteering for the Vance campaign.
“We thought this would be a great way to get our candidate’s name out there to some high schoolers that might be able to vote this year,” Molly Wells said, adding she “may have neglected some homework” for the last few weeks preparing for the debate.
“I’ve always loved politics so just being able to learn how to debate and research, it’s been a really cool experience for me,” said Molly Wells, who plans to study finance at the University of Kentucky next year.
Kasey Wells said she hopes the team represented Vance well, and she hoped fellow students learned something during the debate.
“We wanted to represent him well,” Kasey Wells said. “I’ve gotten to learn more about a man I respect. I think it’s good to educate people, especially high schoolers.”
Kasey Wells said she plans to study civil engineering at University of Kentucky.
Clark said she was interested in politics and joined the team because she wants to be a lawyer and thought it would be good practice for debating, along with being a good way to inform students about the candidates.
“It’s important to inform high schoolers because the more informed our voters are, the more they can choose a good leader, regardless of if you agree with their views or not,” Clark said. “I think it’s important to see their views and how it can impact your life. I’m hoping to become a lawyer, so it’s important to have these skills.”
Clark said she plans to study international business with a minor in Chinese and Spanish next year but has not selected a school yet.
Gitson said he has been volunteering for Ryan’s campaign since the summer, and he was able to draw on his experience with the campaign to prepare for the debate.
“I’ve been campaigning for Tim Ryan every week since July,” he said. “The hardest part was getting Vance’s positions and figuring out what those attacks are going to be.”
Gitson said when Haynes announced the mock debate, he leapt at the chance to participate.
“Our teacher put this together, which we really appreciate him doing,” Gitson said. “It sounded like fun, and we wanted to practice our debating skills. We want to help people be informed and make sure people hear both sides of an argument. I enjoyed putting this on. (Debating issues) is a tenant of our democracy. We want to get back to how to talk about issues in a reasonable way. Our democracy is something we can’t take for granted.”
Nelson said she hadn’t been paying close attention to this election until joining the team.
“I’m glad I got the chance to put more thought into who is going to be representing Ohio,” Nelson said. “It’s important to make that connection for who is going to fight for those issues. It’s important to do things like this to educate students.”
Morrow said she actually campaigned for Morgan Harper, who Ryan defeated in the primary, and said that to her, politics is about defending ideas since “no political person is perfect.”
“You’re being forced into having to realize these issues affect you in a real way,” Morrow said. “I think it’s really important as we are getting to be voting age to be politically active and informed citizens. Any opportunity to learn more about the candidates that we’re going to be voting for is much appreciated it.”
Morrow said she’s thankful to Haynes and the school for putting on the debate.
“The teachers at Hayes are so involved,” Morrow said. “It’s truly awesome that he set it up.”
After the first debate, Haynes said he believed the students did “a phenomenal job.”
“We’ve spent a month planning this. … The students had an important role to play every step of the way,” Haynes said. “They don’t receive a grade for this, they wanted to do this for fun.”