Bake sales before voting booth

Many area middle- and high-schoolers are getting involved with politics

October 08, 2006|By Allison Baker | Allison Baker,sun reporter

It's a warm fall day, the radio is blaring, and the smell of baked goods fills the air. A group of Harper's Choice Middle School eighth-graders are camped outside Kristen Quade's home cooking the staple sweets for a successful bake sale.

After raising $300 from lemonade stands and bake sales in their community this summer, these four girls decided to give their money to a political cause: C. Stephen Wallis, independent candidate for Howard County executive.

All over the county, young adults who can't vote still are looking for ways to improve their community through politics, volunteering on local campaigns across the political spectrum.

"I don't think that the fact that I can't vote yet should stop me from helping the community and ... others," says eighth-grader Atena Sheibani, 13.

Why are pupils who can't vote for another half-decade supporting their middle-school principal and local politician? Because "it's politics, and it's fun" says Kristen, 13, a campaign volunteer.

Atholton senior Heather Fields, 17, and her brother Glen, 14, an Atholton freshman, want to promote their political pick, Democratic county executive candidate Ken Ulman. They deliver campaign letters door to door and pass out leaflets at local grocery stores.

"I just want to get as much notice out there as possible." Heather said.

Centennial senior Dave Meyers, 17, volunteers in the campaign of Republican county executive candidate Christopher J. Merdon. Meyers says the state of Howard County's infrastructure spurred him to join Merdon's campaign "because his plan is for predictable growth [so] that infrastructure grows with the county."

For some volunteers, the experience of participating in a campaign exposes them to a variety of viewpoints and perspectives.

"Since we're just kids, we don't know what side we want to be on yet," says Kristen. "Republicans. Democrats. This is getting us ready for our future."

For others, such as Meyers and 18-year-old Howard High School graduate Natalie Jamieson, volunteering in a political campaign has led them to aspire to enter politics themselves.

"At first I was solely interested in politics, and I didn't know what area I wanted to get into," said Jamieson, a political science major at Elizabethtown College in Lancaster, Pa. But after meeting Merdon, seeing a campaign up close and what she could do with a political science degree, she said, "I plan on majoring in political science and from there running for office locally."

All of the volunteers agree on the value of an early start in political activism.

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