Children, parents learn value of voting


A nonprofit voter education program is planting the seeds for good citizenship in Baltimore County with a campaign to encourage children to vote in the future -- and their parents to exercise the responsibility now.

Many of the children won't be old enough to vote for a dozen years. But by that time, they will be old hands at campaigns and candidates, thanks to Kids Voting Maryland, the program intended to educate and motivate future voters from kindergarten through high school.

The program expanded into the county yesterday with ceremonies at Towson High School that included a tree-planting, band and chorus performances and "wishes" for a better world from fourth-graders at nearby Pleasant Plains Elementary.

The elementary students wrote their wishes on star-shaped cutouts and hung them from the branches of the evergreen.

"Next fall, they will learn how exercising their right to vote is one way to bring these seeds of hope to fruition," said Bobbie Dillow, president of the board of directors of the Kids Voting Maryland program. Students in all county public and private schools, as well as those who are home-schooled, can participate.

The Maryland program is an affiliate of Kids Voting USA, which began in Phoenix, Ariz., in 1988. For two months before the general election, the program offers classroom instruction on political leaders, citizens' rights and responsibilities in elections, types of government and political polls and advertising.

It also includes participatory activities, culminating with an opportunity for students to cast ballots at kids' voting stations.

Supported by money from private corporations, Kids Voting supplies all the classroom materials and curriculum guides for teachers and solicits volunteers to staff the student polls on election day. Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and the Abell Foundation are among the sponsors.

Kids Voting came to Maryland with a pilot project in Harford County last year. By November 1996, Kids Voting will be in five counties and Baltimore City.

Not only does this program foster good voting habits among future voters, it has also increased adult participation, said Suellen Weisberg, executive director of Kids Voting Maryland.

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