Beairsto goes to the polls

Students learn about the electoral process and cast their votes

After casting her vote for the NDP, Emily Fomenko did her best to convince others why they should vote for Vernon-Monashee candidate Barry Dorval.

Emily is still many years away from the legal voting age, but that didn’t stop the Grade 3 student from enthusiastically supporting one of the four candidates during the BC. student elections at Beairsto on Monday.

“I voted NDP because Barry Dorval said he is going to help a lot of children,” she said, after casting her vote, before admonishing her friend for voting for the Greens.

Emily cast her vote as one of more than 180,000 elementary and secondary students throughout B.C. taking part in Student Vote, a non-partisan election program for students under the voting age. The program provides students with an opportunity to experience democracy first-hand and build a habit of voting that will last a lifetime.

Registered schools receive a free election package that includes activity guides, posters, electoral district maps, ballot boxes, voting screens and ballots. Students take on the roles of voting officials and have the opportunity to vote on local candidates in their electoral district, and are encouraged to learn about party platforms, local candidates, and foster dialogue among students and their families.

Grade 3 student Jaida Correia expressed the same sentiment as many of the students lined up in the Beairsto gym waiting to cast their votes.

“It’s fun,” she said. “I voted for the Green Party because I like Keli Westgate, because she’s all about our community and kids’ education. We have to vote for who we want to represent us, but we can still disagree.”

Born in Ukraine, Polina Ignatyeva and her parents recently became Canadian citizens and the Grade 6 student was enthusiastic about taking part in the democratic process.

“We’re trying to spread the message about voting, and how important it is to vote because every vote counts,” she said. “Voting is very important because you can make a difference if you vote; you can change the future and if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”

Monday’s student elections were organized by Grade 6/7 teacher Robin Coogan-Penner, who assigned roles to students such as voting clerk, voting officers and scrutineers to take on jobs such as checking and crossing off students’ names, handing out ballots and observing the voting.

“I thought this would be interesting to take part because I’m teaching social studies,” she said. “I think it’s important to vote and I think it’s important for students to know and understand the process and I thought this would be a fun way to do it. My class has responded very well to this and they are learning a lot.”

For Grade 2 student Cadence Gibson, the right to vote is something many Canadians take for granted, but she learned that has not always been the case.

“A long time ago, women were not allowed to vote,” she said. “And a long time ago, there were dictators in some countries and there are still dictators.”

Grade 7 student Qui Parker was busy as a voting clerk, checking students’ names off his list, but took some time to share his thoughts on the election.

“I learned a lot about the different parties and I’d like to get a good leader for our province,” he said. “I think health care is important and if I could vote, I would vote for the Liberals because I like their ideas.”

Grade 6/7 teacher Alyson Lypchuk said it was interesting to get her student’s reaction to watching the leadership debate on TV.

“It really bothered the kids that the leaders were all interrupting each other,” she said. “Teaching them about the election process has been really cool, to show them and get them involved and interested because the earlier you get involved the more chance you have to form your own opinion when you’re older, rather than just that of your parents.”

Schools were asked to keep their Student Vote results confidential until after the close of polls Tuesday night, with school election officials sworn to secrecy.

“We don’t want to be seen to be influencing the outcome in any way,” said Coogan-Penner.