Carson High seniors ready to vote, ready to 'make an impact'

The votes have been cast and tallied - and they say one thing:

"Obama."

This week Carson High seniors, virtually all of whom will be of voting age by November's election, participated in a mock caucus, casting votes by secret ballot and answering questions about who they want to be their first elected leader.

The results, government teacher Angila Golik said, were "eye-opening."

"We're about evenly split between those who affiliate with Democrats and Republicans," she said. "So, we were pretty surprised when one candidate seemed to capture most of the attention - and the vote."

Barack Obama received 206 of the 414 seniors' tallies to garner half the "popular" vote from Carson High teens.

Those who voted were given a choice of 11 candidates and did not have to vote according to party lines.

The next highest vote getter was Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, who received 39 votes (or 9 percent).

"It's pretty clear who the seniors are voting for and why according to the survey," Golik said. "This group of kids is pretty well-versed on the elections. All teachers are discussing it every day as a part of current events. These numbers actually aren't too far off the national numbers for this (demographic)."

Senior Jordan Nash, 18, a registered Republican and self-described conservative, said he wasn't too surprised at the mock-election results, but also noted that he was a "McCain man."

"I think we need someone who can finish the war, and do it in a responsible manner," he said. "I don't believe in (Obama's) plan for immediate withdrawal. I think if there was a draft, I will sign up before."

Senior Gage Mead, 18, also coming from the right, said he was mostly undecided on a Republican candidate to support, but was leaning toward Mitt Romney.

Mead said he also felt the war is top of mind for most of his peers.

"We need to stay in and get things resolved," he said. "I'm not saying I necessarily agree with how Bush did it - but I think someone needs to keep us on a direct course, one that will ensure we get stability.

"I have friends and family that serve - so I support them."

Mackena Bell, 17, who voted Democrat, said Obama's Iraq exit strategy is a responsible and realistic one.

"I think good-old Obama has a plan and a good one," she said. "My belief is we shouldn't be there in the first place. His plan is to be out by '09 and I think it's done in a sound way to turn (the nation-state) over to the people of Iraq."

All seniors, who came of age post-Sept. 11, said the ensuing war on terror and invasion of Iraq is the hot-button issue amongst their peers.

Alejandra Melgarejo, 17, an Obama supporter, said, "There are other things, like immigration, but, I think the war is what we're exposed to most - I think it's what you hear people (our) age talking about. I think it has the most effect on us every day."

Indeed, when asked about the current down trend of the economy, teens to the left and right of center in Carson felt the economy would right itself.

"I don't know a whole lot about it," Nash said. "But I do think the thing to do is to keep working hard and if we keep going - we'll see the other side."

Melgarejo agreed.

"I think the part of the economy that most closely (affects) us is paying for college," she said. "I know a lot of people who are worried about that, who are thinking right now about how they're going to do it - whether they can afford it.

"This ties into education in general. Are we going to keep 'No Child Left Behind'? It's going to be interesting to see how the next (administration) deals with education."

Government teacher Golik, who helped craft the mock-election survey to go along with students' votes, included questions about what issues were important to seniors.

"This group of kids is really on the national board with what's out there, they really have a firm grasp of the issues, and a firm notion of what it is they care most about," she said. "It's just a really interesting time to be coming of age and voting for the first time."

Some 96 percent of seniors polled said they were planning to vote in November. Some, like Melgarejo and Bell, have already volunteered for campaigns.

"Whether we agree or not on the issues or the candidates, all of us have become pretty political," said Mead. "I don't think you can grow up at the time we did and not be involved. This is going to be our first say, and I think it's going to make an impact."

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at apridgen@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.

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