This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Charlotte Pope
Communications Technology principal Colette Langston wants her students to know the importance of voting, so she scheduled a “Get Out the Vote” presentation on the day of the student election.
“I piggy-backed the presentation on the election because I wanted them to see democracy at work at Communications Technology — not only for the school, but for the city of Philadelphia,” Langston said. “I didn’t want to do that in isolation.”
Langston had Tracey Gordon, the City of Philadelphia’s deputy commissioner for voter education and outreach, preside over the process. Gordon partnered with Terrance Meacham, an organizer with the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, to give the presentation to 11th and 12th graders, including some history about the challenges around the voting process.
“We have such a low, dismal turnout in the city of Philadelphia as far as voting, so we decided that we want to come out to the schools to reach the students in hopes that they can take the information back home,” Gordon said.
"We try to teach kids good citizenship and show them how democracy is always a constant struggle."
In a busy hallway of the school early one Friday morning, students gathered around a ballot box. Several students spent an entire week campaigning via social media, the school news program and flyers for their student government elections.
One of the three candidates for president, senior Omar Soumaa, focused his platform on the idea of change.
“I’ve been here since freshman year," Soumaa said. "I started as a bad kid and became one of the good kids. I’m on the honor roll. I want to give my own time to help others make some changes.”
Kareem Belgrave, an enthusiastic candidate for secretary, said he decided to run because “Communications Technology is for the students, and I want people to come here and be loved.”
Getting young people interested in government and the election process is not always easy, but it seems the importance of exercising their voices through the ballot box is not lost on the students at Communications Technology.
"It’s not just about what we can do [here]," said presidential candidate Lloyd Moore. "I think it’s more about us being able to know that there is life after high school. So if we’re not doing what we have to do now, how can we do what we have to do later?”