Engaging the under 18 crowd isn’t usually a big priority for candidates during election season. Votes win elections, and campaigns will leave no stone unturned in order to identify and appeal to voters, register eligible adults, and talk about the issues with anyone able to cast a ballot.
Education and community advocacy organization PACCT is trying to change that. Or at least, to raise awareness among candidates and the public the importance of youth – those under 18 – as key stakeholders in any sustainable equity strategy. To further that message and help inform the community about candidates for Kalamazoo Public Schools Board of Education and where they stand on issues important to them, on Wednesday evening the group hosted a student lead and moderated School Board Candidate Forum. Participants in the forum joined virtually, while youth gathered outdoors and on site at Interfaith homes to run the show. Of the 7 candidates for KPS’ Board of Ed who were asked to participate, Megan Maddock and Marshall Kilgore accepted the invitation to answer questions from community members live via Zoom.
To support young leaders in the community, PACCT partnered with AIMS Kidz, a resident initiative to provide educational opportunities, meals, and activities for students who reside at Interfaith Homes. Through AIMS, PACCT was able to recruit and train over 10 KPS students to take the reins at the forum.
Taking on the role of host, 10th grader Jamiya says that this was the first time she had ever had a public speaking role. She admits to being a little nervous about introducing the candidates and reviewing the forum rules and procedures to a live audience, but she enjoyed the experience and is looking forward to coming back for the next forum in the series (taking place on Wednesday, September 23, and again on the 30th).
Welcoming attendees, keeping the trolls away, monitoring the Zoom chat and screening questions submitted by the public were among the duties handled by Akasha, Dequariana and Aliya – and they kept busy. For about an hour and a half, Maddock and Kilgore thoughtfully answered a steady stream of questions posed by moderators Jada and Doris on topics ranging from the School to Prison Pipeline to nutrition and of course, online learning. Timekeeper Denisha kept the pace and made sure candidates kept to the allotted time (60 seconds) to respond.
What did the candidates think about being on the (virtual) hot seat and grilled by teens? Megan Maddock says she appreciated the approach, pointing out that “Students are most directly affected by decisions of the KPS board but historically have the least amount of space given to voice their input and concerns” and that student leadership “might make candidates consider how their platforms meet the needs of all young people in the district”. Similarly, Marshall Kilgore says it was “awesome to see out youth’s voices being uplifted” and says he looks forward to more opportunities to receive feedback from students and families.
Watch the full recording of the forum below. More information on PACCT and their upcoming forums can be found on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pacct.board.5
To learn more about AIMS Kidz, go to: https://www.facebook.com/aims.kidz