More than 50 students at Hayes High School in Delaware held a mock caucus Friday morning where students stumped for candidates and eventually chose Joe Biden as their winner.
Social Studies Teacher Adam Haynes said the school tries to do events like this every time there is an election to give students some familiarity with it, especially since many won’t be able to vote in the March 17 primary or the November election.
“Most of our students aren’t able to actually participate in the primary process, so we wanted to give them a choice and a voice to participate,” Haynes said. “We are trying to encourage more civic engagement and awareness, and so we talked about it in an AP US government and politics class, and there was a lot of interest.”
Several students chose a candidate to represent or were assigned one and gave presentations on behalf of Vice President Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Haynes said students worked on the project for about a month.
After the presentations, students were asked to choose a candidate to support, and Haynes explained that a candidate would need 15% of the vote to remain viable. Bloomberg was eliminated in the first round after he received no votes, even from the students assigned to promote him.
In the following round, Warren was eliminated, followed by Buttigieg. Finally, the 56 students participating in the caucus had to choose between Biden and Sanders.
Following another round of speeches from students representing both candidates, 31 students chose Biden and 25 chose Sanders.
Haynes said he hopes students learn that every vote does count.
“It was a fantastic opportunity to be able to see students get involved and have to prepare to speak in front of their peers,” he said. “It’s not easy speaking to a large crowd so it helps them build those skills and it brings about an authentic learning environment. At the end of the day, it’s not so much about which candidate wins or not, but it’s about the students participating and about the students being engaged and learning about how our political system is set up.”
Haynes added students arguing for Sanders made stronger arguments, but the students arguing for Biden brought people with them to vote in the caucus.
“You have to show up to count,” Haynes said. “The winner definitely had a lot of friends they were able to encourage to join their side, which actually mirrors the caucus process. Unfortunately, it’s not always about who is the most researched or who is a better speaker. It’s about who can fire up the crowd. This definitely makes the caucus process more applicable.”
Mary Grace Duffy, a senior and one of the students who spoke for Warren, said it was good to see fellow classmates enthusiastic about politics.
“(The youth) are becoming more politically charged and involved,” Duffy said. “Ultimately, they are the people making the change, so if we start with the youth, we’ll see more activity in the community.”
Duffy added she’s looking forward to voting for Warren next month.
“She’s resilient,” Duffy said, adding she plans to go into environmental studies after she graduates from high school and will be voting for Warren because of her policies to combat climate change. “There’s a lot we can do locally and nationally to tackle climate action, and right now we aren’t really seeing that with the current administration.”
Makenna Kilton, a junior, campaigned for Buttigieg in the event. She thought his policies would appeal to most students.
“He’s very moderate, and I see our school as more moderate than super liberal,” Kilton said, adding she enjoyed the opportunity to get involved in politics in school.
Lizzy Childers, a senior, said she enjoyed campaigning for Sanders during the caucus event, and she plans to volunteer locally for his campaign.
“I really want to get involved with the political process and a candidate the really resonates with me is Bernie Sanders,” Childers said. “I feel like if I can make other students understand where I’m coming from, maybe I can flip other students to our side.”
One of Childers’ partners during the event was junior Padraig Mumper, who said he believes Sanders’ values line up with his own.
“I’ve been involved with politics for awhile,” Mumper said.”I just want to be able to achieve basic stability, and I realize that’s something a lot of people don’t have. Bernie’s policies address that the best. If you look at the direction our country is heading, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. I love to see how Bernie is ready to fight against Wall Street interest and oil companies.”
Haynes said he’s planning on putting on mock debates in the fall between students representing President Donald Trump and the Democratic nominee.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.