SPENCER — Kelsey Ramsue had collected an arsenal of knowledge by the time he walked into the Spencer Town Hall on Wednesday to vote for the first time.
The North Rowan High School senior watched all three presidential debates and read everything he could get his hands on before making up his mind.
“I’m very excited about the possibility of making a difference,” he said.
Ramsue was one of about a dozen students at North who rode an activity bus downtown to cast a ballot Wednesday.
History teacher Robert Johnsen joined Krystal Stukes, North’s Communities in Schools of Rowan County site coordinator, in registering about 40 students and then providing them with transportation.
The majority of the students who registered were actually 16- year-olds.
“A lot of people don’t know you can register at 16,” Johnsen said. “It’s important to get them registered as soon as possible because later they might not think about it or know where to go and things can get lost in the shuffle.”
Johnsen, who teaches American History I, said he’s been using every opportunity to link his history lessons with what’s going on in politics now.
“For example, the first essay my honors kids did, I had them compare the spirit of the original Boston Tea Party to the ideology of the current political tea party,” he said. “That’s what we do every day in American history, evaluate where we’ve been in order to affect where we’re going.”
Throughout the semester, Johnsen has done a number of lessons that have actively engaged students in thinking about politics.
“This age, 15 and 16, is extremely formative in them deciding who they are and kind of breaking away from just what they have kind of been fed,” he said. “They start to think on their own and formulate their own opinions about how the world works.
“It’s the perfect time for them to start thinking about the way government impacts what they value … If they don’t start thinking about those issues now, they may never consider them until they are directly or negatively affected by government policy.”
Johnsen said students have been excited about the prospect of voting.
“I think the work we’re doing here in our social studies classes is showing young people why they should care,” he said. “I think we’ve been very successful in getting a lot of them fired up about voting even if they can’t vote right now.”
Stukes said they are hoping to set a foundation so that the next time an election rolls around students will be prepared to vote.
“We’re hoping to keep them motivated for years to come by making voting a habit,” she said.
Stukes arranged for the students to travel to the Spencer Town Hall to vote.
“We wanted to give them the experience of voting so they could see what it’s like,” she said. “We told them not to discuss who they are voting for, to keep that to themselves and mark it on the ballot.”
Senior Sampson Tomblin said he feels voting is a responsibility.
“I know it’s important so I’m doing my part,” he said.
Senior Madison Dotson said she was ready to vote Wednesday. She had researched the candidates and gotten her mother’s input.
“It’s neat that the school is taking us to vote,” she said. “It’s something new. They are making progress.”
Although Ramsue registered in July, he said he’s glad the school has given students a chance to take advantage of their civic duty to vote.
“This is a great opportunity for kids to vote and get a firsthand experience of what it’s like,” he said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.