North End teens embrace politics, voting

Kingston High School senior Sierra Moon studies her ballot during her Contemporary World Issues class. Moon, 18, was casting her mail-in vote. - Brad Camp/Staff photo
Kingston High School senior Sierra Moon studies her ballot during her Contemporary World Issues class. Moon, 18, was casting her mail-in vote.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff photo

t Students sound off about politics and what matters most to them.

NORTH END — It’s undeniable this year’s presidential and state gubernatorial elections are of paramount importance. It’s forecasted the nation will witness record voting turnout.

Whatever is decided will have significant impacts on all the country’s 305 million residents, regardless if they have a voting voice or not.

Based on the Census Bureau’s July 2007 estimates, 21,473,690 of the nation’s residents are 15 to 19 years of age, and millions of them won’t be able to vote.

Washington is home to 441,320 15- to 19-year-olds and 16,684 of them live in Kitsap County.

These teens mirror the nation in having very strong opinions and hopes for what’s decided Nov. 4, just ask them.

“Whether it be McCain or Obama, this election is the make it or break it for our generation right now,” said 18-year-old Cody Somers, a student in a Contemporary World Issues class at North Kitsap High.

Somers is one of 53 NKSD students who shared their political perspectives last week. Of that 53, 16 students are 18 years old. Of those eligible, 10 are registered to vote.

All the students, registered or not, expressed frustration over the presidential and gubernatorial race and the debates. They say they’re tired of the candidates calling each other liars, while promoting the shining spots on of their records while glossing over any negatives. They want to hear concrete plans.

“I watched the governors debates and (Dino) Rossi spent too much time mudslinging and didn’t answer the questions very well,” said 17-year-old Viking Meredith Glad.

Presidential nominees Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain didn’t escape criticism for their debating styles or negative campaigning.

Hot button issues for the 53 students are the economy, health care, secondary education and the war. Abortion, gay marriage, the environment and energy were also discussed.

“Honestly, right now, with the economy, the decisions and issues will affect us the most,” said 17-year-old KHS student Jessica Jorgenson. “We will be the ones who have a stake in it.”

Fellow Kingston student Nick Andersen, 18, who’s registered to vote, added what’s decided nationally affects his everyday life.

Health care, education and the economy are issues of concern for these youth because they know next fall they’ll be confronted head on by life after high school. They’re issues where the majority shared the same vein of thought.

“Health care is a big issue, and we all realize next year how big an issue it will be,” said KHS student Aaron Newman, 18, who “gashed” his knee skateboarding and couldn’t afford stitches, as he didn’t have health insurance. “It’s definitely looming.”

Most would like to see progress made in the affordability of college and availability of student loans.

Nakita Baxter, 17, a student at KHS, has a few universities she’d like to attend but they are out of her reach financially. Her college funding was secured in stocks, so she’ll attend Olympic College for a while.

Kingston’s Amanda Whittles, 17, agrees college should be more affordable. Raised by a single mom, Whittles knows first-hand not all can afford secondary education or get help.

Simon Kidder, 18 at NKHS, worries about education after high school and student debt.

“A four-year university results in thousands of dollars of debt,” said a registered-to-vote Simon. “I want to see something worked out for it to be more affordable to go to school and get an education.”

As for international policies, a few stated the United States’ presence in Iraq is good as it keeps terrorism “under control” and removed Saddam Hussein. On the flip side, most of the student said it’s time for the U.S. troops to come home and they wonder why troops were sent in the first place.

“I don’t think we should be there at all because we need to take care of our own problems before we do stuff in other countries,” said 17-year-old Viking Brad DeShano.

Andersen raised a red flag over war finances.

“We’re spending way too much money — $720 million a day — we shouldn’t be in there,” he said.

The students get their information from class at school, the Internet, National Public Radio, newspapers, television news stations — CNN, NBC and Komo 4 — and their parents.

They know what they care about, and they know how to express themselves in the midst of a contested political climate, and those who can vote definitely will. “I think a lot of adults listen when we want to talk about politics, but think we’re naive. Overall, adults don’t count what we say as valid because we’re not worldly enough,” said NKHS student Cami Krema, 17. “We’re not worldly, yet but still our opinions should matter.”

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