CV High students work the polls

At 17 years old, Kate Hindman is too young to vote. But the Crescenta Valley High School senior on Tuesday didn't let that stop her from working a 14-hour day at the First Baptist Church in La Crescenta, logging ballots and handing out "I voted" stickers.

"Government and politics are really fascinating to me," Kate said. "I watch CNN a lot at home with my family. That is just sort of how I was raised … It is good to sit here and pretend like I am voting through all of these people, living vicariously through them."

Kate was one of 20 Crescenta Valley High students who got a hands-on civics lesson on election day, serving as Los Angeles County student poll workers at voting stations throughout the foothills.

They were tasked with processing voters, demonstrating how to properly use voting machines and counting ballots. They also assisted non-English speaking voters, and made sure there was no electioneering within 100 feet of the polling place.

Students are paid $105 for their work, and their absence from school is counted as a field trip.

"There is all this discussion out there about youth apathy," said Alicia Harris, a social science teacher at Crescenta Valley High who organized the student workers. "I always say [that] I work with the youth and I don't see that. When you tap into something and you find the right avenues, young people can get very excited. This works in that way."

Tuesday was the second time Crescenta Valley High participated in the student poll worker program, Harris said. She first began to explore the possibility during the build-up to the presidential election in 2008. She saw it as a way to take her students' learning beyond the bounds of their textbook.

And while she was worried about the long hours — student poll workers are on site from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. — the experience was a hit. Students came back to class with plenty of anecdotes, including one boy who went bedside collecting mail-in ballots at a nursing home.

"They loved it," Harris said. "They were super into it. Yes, it was tiring and long, but it was such a busy election that there wasn't much down time."

This year, 67 students applied to participate, Harris said. Twenty were selected for the county's poll worker training workshop, a two-hour lesson on the ins and outs of election day.

The benefits of the program are twofold, Harris said. Not only does it complement student coursework, but studies have shown that those who serve as student poll workers are more likely to vote as adults.

Senior Luis Reyes, 17, said he loves studying American government and political ideologies.

"I chose to participate because I want to be more involved with the election process because before I wasn't really involved with it that much," Luis said.

And it's rewarding helping people put their vote where their mouth is, said John Clarke, 17.

"You hear a lot of people who complain about government, but if they vote than they are taking care of that problem," John said.

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