Collins Career students start early on politics

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 14, 2004

GETAWAY - High school seniors Shelby DeWitt and Samantha Nelson will not be voting in the Nov. 2 election but that does not mean the political buzz hasn't caught their attention.

Local politicians aren't overlooking these voters of tomorrow either.

DeWitt, a 17-year-old Fairland High School senior, and fellow 17-year-old Nelson, a Rock Hill senior, joined their junior and senior Collins Career Center classmates Tuesday and Wednesday for a political forum with local candidates from both parties. The forum is in conjunction with the Collins-wide "Election 2004" project designed to get students involved in the election process.

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"I think it is very important that they came out here. I was very appreciative because a lot of people wouldn't take the time to come talk to people who can't even vote," said Nelson, who admitted she is not really excited by politics but that something like this helps.

"It does help make me more interested. It made me think more about it. I think it made a lot of students think about it."

DeWitt agreed that an event like this may not translate into votes next month but could be invaluable to the entire community in the future.

"It was extremely important. You are starting to get more kids than adults (involved)," she said. "Many kids don't know what the issues are and what the political stands are. I think it helped us a lot."

Several Democratic candidates visited Tuesday while the Republican candidates were at the school Wednesday. Students asked candidates questions about their political platforms, strategies, personal backgrounds that got them into politics and what they would do if elected.

The students said a candidate's party affiliation did not matter to them, only what they had to say.

"(Party affiliation) didn't matter to me. I don't think it mattered to most of the students," Nelson said. "I don't think most know the difference between Democrats and Republicans. I just looked at the individual person."

Collins Superintendent Steve Dodgion said the idea was initiated by the staff and has been a tremendous success.

"The entire motivation was to bring home to the students how important the election is and how important it is to vote and participate in the election," Dodgion said. "I tell you, it was really impressive. Our students have really embraced this."

What makes local politics more interesting than national races? For DeWitt that is easy: Ego.

"They are just more gentlemanly about it," she said. "They get their views out there instead of bashing each other."