For National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, students at Democracy Preparatory Academy at Agassi Campus held their first on-campus voter drive, offering space, devices and an internet connection to register would-be voters in the community.
The goal on Tuesday and leading up to the November election is to get voters of all parties engaged, said the school’s civics coordinator, Ashley Moser. But the event also offers a volunteering opportunity for students at the civics-minded charter school, who spend their senior years completing 40 volunteer hours, 20 internship hours and a capstone “Change the World” project addressing a community need.
Throughout their time at the school, students engage with the political process and current events, Moser said, not shying away this year from such topics as the Black Lives Matter marches, the COVID-19 pandemic and the presidential election. Possible upcoming Supreme Court hearings could become a real-world lesson in how the highest court works, she said.
“They’re living through history,” she said.
“We want them to form opinions of their own,” she said of why the school brings current events into the classroom, adding that students have responded wholeheartedly: In 2018, students organized walkouts in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting and went to UNLV to help register college students to vote.
Jazmine Ramos, an eighth grader, said the school teaches students to speak for themselves. During a project on the importance of voting, Ramos said she asked her family members their opinions on the topic, with their responses ranging from enthusiastic to dismissive, and came to the conclusion herself that voting was critical to the democratic process.
In a T-shirt bearing the slogan “I can’t vote yet but I can change the world,” sixth-grader Nicole Bailey helped one of the first families in the gym through their online registration. Voting is a way to choose the right candidates for office, she said.
Senior Zuriah Barlow, who attended to register as a voter in order to be eligible to cast a ballot as soon as she turns 18, said she believes some people still don’t see the urgency in voting.
To sway them, Barlow said she’d emphasize the importance of voting as a way to influence decisions about health care and how resources are allocated, especially in underserved communities.
“It’s your American duty as a citizen to vote. If you don’t, you can’t complain about who’s elected,” Barlow said. “It literally dictates what policies are in place… it decides who’s over me.”