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‘UR VOTES COUNT’

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This election year has generated a lot of interest from both sides of the aisle and down the middle. Lines of people have been found across the country, just waiting to see their candidate. But kids that are too young to vote may have felt that their voices weren’t needed and not heard — until now.

General Growth Properties, Inc., which manages several malls across the country, has given pre-teens a chance to have their voices heard. The noise, however, that was coming from the Glendale Galleria on Aug. 16 was not so much the voice of “get out the vote” but “OMG IT’S SELENA GOMEZ!”

Gomez is the spokesperson for the mall company’s UR Votes Count program.

For those who do not have younger children or siblings, she is among the next generation of Disney teen stars. The lead from “Wizards of Waverly Place” from the Walt Disney Co. has a large following of ’tweens and a large number of those fans stood in line for over six hours for a chance to see, take a picture with their idol and of course vote on the issues.

“We love it,” said Janet Lafevre, senior marketing director of the Galleria.

She added that the mall hosts many events and especially liked this one because of their close relationship with the Walt Disney Co.

“We opened the first Disney store in the world [at the Galleria],” she said.

The votes count program will be visiting 170 malls throughout the country and the Galleria was chosen not only as the kick off spot, but the only place where Gomez would be present.

Caralyn Wong, 10, and her sister Chyna, 8, joined friend Jocelyn Araya, 13, at the mall to see Gomez. They had arrived about 6 a.m. and were caught up in the excitement when Gomez finally appeared just after noon. All were big fans, Chyna brought Gomez a present and had items for her to sign.

“I am so excited to see her,” Chyna said.

All three said they had heard about the voting but really wanted to see Gomez.

“I’m her number one fan,” yelled Gabi Carrillo, 11, from Tujunga. “She is perfect, pretty and has perfect teeth!”

Carrillo had also waited over six hours for Gomez but that didn’t deter her energy level.

As Gomez approached the stage, many of the girls that had been standing in line came close to tears. One little girl hugged her dad tightly as the line began to move.

“My legs are shaking,” Carrillo said as the line moved closer to Gomez. “I am really nervous. I’m really happy and nervous.”

Chyna was going over what she would say when she finally got an audience with the Disney idol. The moment arrived and she handed her the prepared presents, got a picture and an autograph. Gomez, graciously listened to each and every story on how she had changed her fans’ lives.

“She was so amazing,” Chyna said as she stepped away.

Carrillo was all smiles and had a little stunned look on her face as she walked away from the table.

A representative of the votes program asked her if she wanted to vote. Suddenly Carrillo transformed from a star struck fan to an interested voter. She went to the makeshift polling booth and cast her vote.

“Teens do talk about the issues,” said Wally Brewster, senior vice president of marketing and communications with General Growth Properties. “They will be casting their votes nationwide.”

Brewster said that this program gives kids too young to vote an opportunity to be part of the Democracy process.

Anyone under 18 can vote at www.urvotescount.com. Information on the issues are also available at that site.



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