Inspired Leader, McClain Moran from James River High School, organized a candidate forum for students and the community to learn about the candidates running for the House of Delegates. Read her interview.
Q: What began your interest in politics? Why did you stage this forum?
After serving as a Senate Page in the General Assembly in 2014, I recognize and value the importance of community engagement in local politics and wanted to provide the Chesterfield community an opportunity to learn about the candidates running to represent them and make informed voting decisions.
Q: Do you think interacting with elected officials can help boost turnout among young people?
I think that directly engaging with elected officials not only boosts turnout among young people, but also elevates trust. When a student understands that a candidate or elected official values them and their ideas enough to take time out of their day to speak to them, young people will be much more likely to support them and understand how important elections are.
Q: Why do you think having a candidate forum is an effective way to get the general public involved in politics?
A candidate forum creates that direct engagement with a community and their representatives. This gave the audience a chance to hear about the background of their candidates and see them as a person instead of someone in campaign literature or on social media. It was also an opportunity to ask questions and hear how some candidates differ from others in their answers. The general public is much more likely to remember someone who took the time to come and answer their questions, which creates a connection between the candidate and community.
Q: What were some of the challenges you encountered while preparing this event?
Luckily, I was given a lot of support from the James River community and faculty, which was excellent and helpful. Although, with the event being approved only about a month before the decided date, it was difficult to put the forum on a lot of candidates' calendars. There were also a few difficulties with balancing course work, a Fall sport, college applications and this Capstone Project, but I did my best! :)
Q: How can we make students in high schools more aware of these important statewide elections that might not have as much publicity as national elections?
I think that the best way to raise awareness of the importance of statewide elections is through schools. It could be as simple as teachers mentioning it or creating an assignment about the election. Even better would be if a candidate came and spoke to a class, which would create engagement and a connection between students and a candidate.