Cape Ann LWV Develops High School Civics Project

The League of Women Voters of Cape Ann has twice partnered with Gloucester High School in projects directly involving students with research into ballot questions and candidate positions, then presentations at League forums.

The first project, in fall 2016, focused on the four ballot questions that year. Eight students participated, and each picked a pro or con side of one of the four ballot questions, noted Cynthia Bjorlie, who has organized the projects and worked closely with the principal and teachers at Gloucester High on both. The students researched their positions and then presented a public program on the ballot questions in the high school auditorium, which attracted about 100 people and was also offered on the town’s cable television channel.

Drawing on the success of that effort, the Cape Ann League decided to do another project for the local election in November 2017, focusing on the nine candidates for City Council seats.

“First, we asked the candidates if they would be willing to participate, and all of them agreed to do it,” Bjorlie said.

Students participating in the project were each assigned to a candidate; 14 students volunteered, as it happened, all girls. They met with their candidate and campaign staff and did background research on the candidate and positions. One accompanied her candidate to a coffee to meet voters; some went to campaign events. Each student had an LWV contact who checked in with her weekly.

The students were also asked to develop questions on local issues for the candidates.

“Each student gave a presentation on their candidate to an audience of the school principal and League members,” she said. “Then during the League’s Candidates’ Night, each asked one of the questions they had developed.”

On Election Day, the League took the participating students to the polling places in Gloucester’s eight precincts so they could see how the elections are run and check the turnout. Some of the students worked at the polls. Then they went to City Hall that evening to watch the returns come in.

“The students got to meet people who actually run for office and see what that involves,” Bjorlie said.

The students who participated in these two projects received academic credit for their work.

For more information contact Cynthia Bjorlie