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Apathy takes a holiday at Plant High

Teenagers take an active interest in who will lead the country, with rallies, analysis, debates and a mock election.

By ELISABETH DYER
Published October 22, 2004

Although most may be too young to vote, students at Plant High School want to sway those who can.

At school, they tout their party allegiance on T-shirts, pins and bracelets similar to the Lance Armstrong band sold by students, who can't keep up with demand.

Last week, they waved signs at Bayshore and Bay to Bay boulevards urging drivers to vote.

This election year, students are more politically active than ever, said David Webb, who teaches journalism at Plant. His students plan to devote eight pages in the next edition of Pep O' Plant, the school paper, detailing where the candidates stand on issues.

Students campaigned during the primaries and surveyed voters on the efficiency of the electronic voting machines. Some walked precincts and helped with Rock the Vote. On Oct. 5 during a school voter registration drive, students signed up 70 12th-graders eligible to vote.

"When I was in ninth grade my head was in the mud about politics," said parent Linda Tanner, whose son, Alex, has been following the election closely.

Alex is rooting for President Bush, based on his handling of the war in Iraq. Alex wears a "Students for Bush' ' pin on his backpack and a blue wristband on his right hand imprinted with BUSH CHENEY 04.

Bryan Griffin, editor of the school paper, and Cameron Brooks, both 16, went to the presidential debate Sept. 30 at the University of Miami. With their student press passes, they ended up getting credentials.

Bryan, a Bush supporter who plans to major in political science in college, described it as the "most interesting experience of my life."

At school, student debates show that the race is "very close," he says. He figures that many of the parents are Republicans, but a lot of teens lean toward the Democrats.

Plant will hold a mock election Oct. 29 in the cafeteria. All of the approximately 2,025 students, regardless of age, are invited to take part. Results will be posted in the school paper.

The presidential election has been a daily topic of discussion in government classes.

Arianae Tsavaris says domestic issues trump international ones. Top on her list: the gay marriage amendment, which she has debated for and against.

Arianae is president of Junior State of America, a national school club she formed at Plant in March. She got the idea after spending three weeks at Georgetown University touring the Capitol, Pentagon and State Department.

"When I came back I was just really inspired and I wanted to bring something like that to Plant," she said.

Now the club has about 50 members, who debate issues and organize the Thursday rallies on Bayshore, which continue next week. Unlike most Plant students who must wait for the 2008 election to vote, Arianae is 18 and plans to head to the polls.

"I will be voting in this election," said Arianae, who's still weighing her options. "It's very exciting."

- Elisabeth Dyer can be reached at 226-3321 or edyer@sptimes.com

[Last modified October 21, 2004, 13:22:09]

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