Democracy Project Engages Students in Election Issues

Student reporters are hot on the election beat to interview candidates on issues affecting students' lives

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For most people below the voting age, the electoral process is a thing of the distant future. But in California, student reporters are hot on the election beat to interview candidates about issues affecting students' lives. Eight student reporters will cover the YouthVote 2000 Pre-California Primary Youth Conference at UCLA, March 4-5, where they will interview presidential candidates about issues students care about, including federal aid for college tuition and school reform. The interviews will culminate in a live webcast from the event on March 4, 5 and 6, the day before Super Tuesday. The 'Student Election Report' is part of the Democracy Project, a collaborative four-week sequence of in-class and online activities sponsored by SchoolCity.com, a K-12 educational services web site.

The project offers a student journalism contest, online debates, an online student newspaper and lesson plans to generate student research dealing with presidential campaign issues, such as freedom of speech as it relates to school dress codes and school prayer. Victoria Costello, managing editor of SchoolCity.com., said the project not only teaches basic history and civics curriculum but 'wakes up' future voters to the democratic process. 'We are seeing (democracy) happen before our eyes. The project is an incredible learning experience for the students. They begin to feel entitled to ask questions.'

A web cast preview with candidate Sen. Bill Bradley took place Feb. 12 at Oakland High School in California. Students questioned the Democratic presidential candidate on issues including Proposition 21, the Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Initiative, which proposes to extend the 'three strikes' mandatory sentencing laws to minors, create a death penalty for certain gang-related crimes and try juveniles as adults. Sen. Bradley came out against the measure. The public can tune in to SchoolCity's Youth Vote 2000 webcasts from UCLA March 4 and 5 at 2 p.m. PST and March 6 at 11 a.m. A link to the webcast will be available from www.schoolcity.com and from the Center for Media Literacy at www.medialit.org.

? COPYRIGHT 2000 THE AMERICAN NEWS SERVICE Carol Hammond is a free-lance writer based in Portland, Maine