West Side high school students register to vote

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Dozens of West Side high school students have registered to vote in the Nov. 6 election as part of a citywide effort to get young people to the polls.

At a recent rally organized by the Youth Connection Charter School and held at Daley Plaza, students helped register fellow students who hadn’t already done so at school.

“Voting is one of the transitions into adulthood,” said Principal Myra Sampson of the Community Christian Alternative Academy, 1231 S. Pulaski Rd.

The academy’s social studies department took the lead in registering students before the Oct. 9  deadline, though there’s a grace period until Nov. 3. Getting young people registered to vote has become one of the school’s projects over the last few years, Sampson said.

Teenagers have led this initiative to educate classmates about the importance of voting, said Principal Daisy Lopez of the West Holistic Leadership Academy, 4909 W. Division St.

Both charters schools participated at the rally, and West Holistic has also been educating students at school about the electoral process. The initiative began in two American government classes, Lopez said.

“We started this as soon as school started,” she said. “We were amazed by the lack of knowledge they had.”

Students learned through various activities about the importance of voting and being an “intelligent voter,” Lopez said.

Lisa Swytnyk, who has taught at West Holistic for five years, said some of the activities she used with students included reading articles from the previous election; watching and analyzing the presidential and vice presidential debates; and discussing the reasons people may or may not vote.

She said many of the students knew more about President Barack Obama than Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Swytnyk said she also explained to her students what they needed to do to register.

“A lot of students were confused about the requirements,” she said. (Those guidelines can be found on the Illinois State Board of Elections web site.)

Lopez said the class registered a total of 57 students Sept. 25 and 26 at a booth they set up in the school under Swytnyk’s supervision. To build interest, the students made fliers and visited several classrooms.

She said some students asked her for voter registration forms to take home.

The completed voter registration forms were then taken by a group of 20 students, who represented West Holistic at the Downtown rally Oct. 4, where they joined other schools in the Youth Connection Charter School network.

Students from The Academy of Scholastic Achievement, 4651 W. Madison St., also participated in the rally and registered voters. They promoted their registration at school and on their Facebook page.

“We hope that students will learn to have an active voice in their lives and to take seriously how much their opinions matter,” Sampson said.

It’s not too late to register to vote. Visit the Chicago Board of Elections web site for more details.

For those already registered to vote, early voting begins today – Oct. 22 – and ends Nov. 3, and is held Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Voters may use any of the locations. Here are the Austin locations:

  • 24th Ward – Douglass Library, 3353 W. 13th St.
  • 28th Ward – West Side Learning Center, 4624 W. Madison St.
  • 29th Ward – Amundsen Park, 6200 W. Bloomingdale Ave.
  • 37th Ward – West Chicago Library, 4856 W. Chicago Ave.

Click here to view a map of all early voting locations citywide.

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  1. Pingback: Voting registration declines in Chicago and Cook County | Vita 10|17

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