Hokes Bluff receives visits from politicians

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By Cole Frederick/Correspondent 

In the last month, Hokes Bluff High School has been the host of a candidate’s forum for several political candidates, including Governor Robert Bentley, who visited the school on Monday, Oct. 21. Bentley visited classes, engaged the students in discussions about distance learning, politics and class activities.  

Candidates began visiting Hokes Bluff three weeks ago addressing the students in government and political science classes taught by Jill Boatwright and Marcia Farabee. 

Etowah County Commissioner Joey Statum was the first candidate to visit the school. Following Statum was Jeff Ingram, his challenger in the upcoming November election. Several state legislature candidates also visited the school, including Craig Ford, Phil Williams, Larry Means, Becky Nordgren and Michael Gladden. Current Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey also made the trip to Hokes Bluff. 

As the government students began studying political parties, campaigns, and elections earlier in the semester, Boatwright and Farabee began inviting candidates to engage the students about the upcoming election. While the teachers initially began inviting the candidates, eventually the students took the initiative to get more candidates involved. 

After the first few candidates visited, senior Leigha Pollard asked if she could invite Lt. Governor Ivey. Ivey’s presence in Hokes Bluff was solely handled by Pollard, who had heard Ivey speak at a student leadership conference several years ago. Pollard also met Ivey at Girls’ State last summer. Ivey rewarded Pollard’s efforts by eating lunch in the cafeteria with Pollard and several other students.

“My favorite part of the visit getting to see how real our Lt. Governor is. When she blessed our food for us at lunch, I saw how she is not all talk and more than a politician, ” said Pollard.

The goal of these forums was for students to become informed voters as they learned more about the election process and political parties. As the students researched each party and candidate, they worked in groups and “adopted” candidates for whom they developed campaign slogans and made commercials. In the process of researching, they also created an evaluation sheet for candidates. The evaluation sheet included education, experience, honesty, and the “down-to-earth” factor, which they assessed as candidate’s spoke and answered their questions. 

Many of the students’ questions concerned issues such as education, the lottery, drug testing for those on government assistance, and economic growth. However, the students also challenged candidates with personal questions regarding their heroes, as well as lighthearted questions such as their preference for cats or dogs. 

“You can tell a lot about a person by who they look up to and if they are a cat or a dog person,”  said Savannah Hayes. “Dog owners love to take care of things or feel needed whereas cat people tend to respect the independent spirit.”

Many of the candidates commented that the students’ questions were well researched and somewhat challenging. Many of these first time voters in November used the opportunity to assess the candidates beyond party labels.  

“Everyone should get the opportunity we had,” said Travis Franklin, a student. “Then they could really make an informed decision.”  

All the candidates spoke of giving back and being service oriented. They also encouraged the students to vote for whomever they felt was the best candidate and to consider one day running for office themselves. Lt. Governor Ivey’s visit was more of a lesson in state government, and she handled the students like the teacher she once was. When one student asked Ivey how she proposed getting more people working, she turned the question on him asking what he would do. She then walked the class through their thoughts and guided them in discovering answers to other difficult questions. She stressed that it was the students who needed to plan for such things because in a few years they will be solving those problems. 

The students finished their unit on elections and the legislative branch this week with a debate on political parties and a mock Senate simulation. 

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