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'Our whole goal is to communicate ... who the candidates are.”
GENEVA – Seven social studies students gathered in a Geneva High School classroom after school for last-minute organizing of a candidate forum for nine candidates running for the Geneva District 304 school board in the April 2 consolidated election.
Eliza Peters, Anna Fintzen, Aydan Fusco, Mary Kassel, Eileen Drew, Vivi Mehren and Andrew Borse are hosting the forum at 7 p.m. March 19 at Geneva Middle School South, 1415 Viking Drive.
The students and their social studies teacher Matthew Hahn had been meeting for two months already, settling on the questions. This meeting on March 14 was their last run-through before the big night.
“The whole goal for today is to make sure the flow is OK,” Hahn said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job coming up with questions that … dig deep and ask the right things, but doing it in a professional non-gotcha way. As we’ve said all along, our whole goal is to communicate ... who the candidates are.”
Cheryl "Cookie" Olson participated in the meeting, as she will serve as the moderator, introducing the candidates and directing students to introduce themselves before they ask the candidates questions.
Hahn recommended that the candidates would be lined up alphabetically on the middle school stage “so there’s no bias” between the incumbent and the challengers.
Students decided the questions would be asked in a rotation so no candidate would always be first and no one would always be last.
In addition to asking their own questions of the candidates, the students will be passing out note cards to the audience for them to write questions, then collecting the public’s questions and choosing which ones to ask.
As there are nine candidates for three four-year terms on the board – incumbent Michael McCormick and newcomers Robert Cabeen, Alicia Saxton, Katherine Frye, Jessica Breugelmans, Kim Edwards, Al Gaston, Jill Johnson and Prerak Patel – Hahn counseled students on how long they would have to respond to questions, as the forum is only 90 minutes long.
The students then practiced some of the questions to a panel of three social studies teachers, Mary Beth Mondul, Jordan Zimberoff and Katie Steely.
The Kane County Chronicle agreed not to publish the questions asked, nor the specific formats the students chose for the forum.
Fusco said many students are newly able to vote and this is a way to help educate them.
“Nov. 30 is when I turned 18, so I am eligible to vote. And this is the way I hope this is the way I hope many other students and the community and I will make a more informed decision on who to vote for,” Fusco said. “Though it may not affect us anymore – those of us who are moving on to college. It’s going to affect our little brothers, our cousins. I’m a TA, I’m a teacher’s assistant. So I’m working with seventh graders and I want them to try to ensure the best education for them that’s possible.”
Though Fintzen said she was not old enough to vote in the April 2 election, she was interested in pursuing a career in politics, so participating in the student-run candidate forum was a great opportunity.
“I love politics,” Fintzen said. “I’m going to be involved in politics when I’m older.”