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Marshall School gets taste for democracy

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE

Seventh grader Niriely Pena, left, helps fellow Marshall Middle School student Meralis Ventura cast her ballot during the seventh-grade election today.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN —They wooed voters with cupcakes and promised tastier lunches but at 1:15 p.m. on Monday, school council candidates Jasmine Phok and Jeremiah Perjuste could only watch their fellow seventh graders vote and wonder if hard-fought campaigns would yield them a seat on Marshall Middle School’s new student council.

“I talked to them about making this the best seventh grade we can have,” Phok said.

Along with 17 other candidates for eight council seats, the 12 year old campaigned for the last two weeks, handing out 90 cupcakes in a bid to win votes and participating in last Friday’s round of speeches.

Perjuste built his campaign on promises, including improved lunch fare and introducing new technology into the aging Marshall building. Classmates from four homerooms with 120 seventh graders assigned to them voted in an election bearing close similarities to the ones in which their parents participate.

Students checked off classmates’ names on a voting list and filled out ballots in cardboard voting booths before slipping them into a ballot box. Handmade posters proclaiming candidates’ promises plastered the hallway wall above the three voting booths.

Marshall teachers Kathy Coman, Jillian Cayton, Laurie Eagan and Joe Ford helped the seventh-graders organize the election with encouragement from Principal Molly Cohen and Vice Principal John Pavia.

“This gives kids a voice and they are practicing participating in a democracy,” Pavia said.

Coman, a social studies teacher and 17-year teacher, said the election grew out of student discussions about fundamental government questions like “Who makes decisions?”

She said the students organized the election with the goal of creating an eight-member student council charged with meeting with Cohen to discuss student concerns.

“I’m extremely impressed with them,” Coman said.

Students Kaylee Baltodano and Gloribel Cepeda found it difficult to pick their choices for councilor.

“It’s hard because they are all my friends,” Cepeda said.

Once the ballots were tallied and the winners announced, Phok and Perjuste found themselves newly elected councilors along with classmates Ava Benzan, Jerimies Brito, Angelina Alvarado, Kassandra Paca, Jonasia Smith and Trinity Jackson Johnson.

Councilors will elect a president and vice president before meeting with Marshall’s principal.

“Molly Cohen is really open to meeting with these kids,” Coman said.


 

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