Posted on September 22, 2011.
by Bahar Ostadan
On the afternoon of September 8th, over 300 Bay Area high school students and educators poured into the auditorium of Mission High School for the San Francisco Youth-Led Mayoral Candidates Forum. Seven of the seventeen San Francisco mayoral candidates, Cesar Ascarrunz, John Avalos, Terry Baum, David Chiu, Bevan Dufty, Tony Hall, and Joanna Rees, hosted campaign booths outside the auditorium with representatives who spoke to curious students. Thanks to the sponsorship of JSA, Youth Vote, and the San Francisco Youth Commission, the hallway was bustling with policy debate, youth involvement opportunities, and great refreshments.
Students and educators from many San Francisco schools attended
JSA used live text message polls as a way to candidly and relevantly engage audience members. The first question projected on the screen asked, “What is the number one issue facing San Francisco youth?” Of the choices offered, 46% of youth audience members ranked quality of education as the most pressing matter. In fact, the topic of education stirred a heated debate among candidates. San Francisco high school student David Kurlander observed “things got pretty contentious between former supervisors Bevan Dufty and Tony Hall, after Dufty took offense to Hall’s allusion that schools hired inadequate administrators and gave a fiery response questioning Hall’s perspective and bringing the PG-rated profanity.
Northern California Governor Stephanie Ribet posed a question to the candidates, asking about their propose plan of action regarding public education in San Francisco. Each candidate was given one minute to respond to each question, keeping the event succinct and exciting. In a brief break during the forum, San Francisco high school student Erica Crew stated that she “thinks it is important for candidates, as well as voters, to realize that all issues apply to today’s youth, regardless of whether or not they are traditionally defined as youth issues on political platforms.” Reflecting Crew’s statement, audience members ranged from active JSA members, politically involved high school students to teachers as well as the candidates’ campaign managers.
Nor Cal Governor Stephanie Ribet, Golden Gate Region Mayor Arnela Colic, and Lick-Wilmerding H.S. Chapter President Gabriel MucCulloch greet participants
At the JSA booth outside the auditorium, Arnela Colic, GGR Mayor, spoke to over a hundred high school students about getting involved in JSA. Gabriel McCulloch, Lick-Wilmerding High School’s JSA chapter president, said, “I think generally it is important for youth to get involved in politics, whether it be at the municipal, state, national, or international level. Just by virtue of knowing what’s going on, they will be able to make the right decisions later in their lives.The San Francisco Youth-Led Mayoral Candidate Forum was a smashing success, providing a window of opportunity for passionate youth to take a step towards civic engagement. Rachel Brodwin, a San Francisco Youth Commissioner, explains, “Getting youth engaged in the world around them is no easy feat. Events like these, that encourage analytical thinking and the formation of opinions, are critical in shaping young minds today and inspiring engagement in the world of tomorrow.”
Emma Pizzardi, another San Francisco high school student, added, “I think often youth are a forgotten group in politics and it is events like this that help politicians understand the importance of the next generation’s civic engagement. Kids who feel impassioned about the issues today can make changes when it’s their turn to lead tomorrow.”