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SIMI VALLEY : Eighth-Graders Practice Democracy at Reagan Library

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In a back corner of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library auditorium in Simi Valley, an eighth-grader playing the part of a journalist Thursday explained why hundreds of raucous students in attendance would surely nominate a girl as president.

“Girls care much more about the issues,” said Brianne Iannolo, 13, at Sequoia Junior High School’s annual mock political convention.

This year, four of the seven presidential nominees of the nonpartisan Sequoia Political Party were girls. A girl won the nomination last year.

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In recent weeks, Sequoia students split into delegations from each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. Candidates launched campaigns, competed in primaries and held news conferences.

History teacher Ron Lucio said the convention gets students out of the classroom and teaches them how political leaders are chosen.

On Thursday, exuberant students cheered and blew party horns under red, white and blue balloons and streamers hanging from the ceiling. Over the din, Iannolo asserted that, “205 years after Washington was elected, our government is corrupt and women can do better.”

But Sequoia will have to wait at least a year for a female to lead their party. John Gonzalez, a 13-year-old acting as governor of California, was named president. Nick Piscitello, 14, was nominated vice president.

“I thought the girls would have more of a chance,” Gonzalez said. “But I think we did better in the last press conference at school. And popularity helped.”

A party platform drafted by the students calls for distribution of condoms in secondary schools to help prevent AIDS and increasing the number of police officers on the street, among other things.

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Nominee Mina Joukar, 13, said the mock convention has inspired her to become much more political and to think more about issues.

On the issue of AIDS, she said, “we need big hospitals strictly for AIDS patients.

Last year’s president, ninth-grade student Jennifer Levy, told the students Thursday that, since being chosen president, “I’ve raised all my grades and now I have a more serious outlook on life and school.”

Of the mock convention, she said later in an interview, “in class, half the kids don’t listen. But when they’re in the convention they’ll get involved. They’ll understand how their leaders are chosen.”

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