Students Engage in Local Election

Every fall, Northwest School seniors are immersed in the local campaigns leading up to Election Day. As part of a major Humanities unit, every senior must volunteer for 15 hours or more on a political campaign of their choice. Students help the campaign in a myriad of ways, such as phone banking, canvassing, attending public forums, and supporting the election of public officials.

"I learned even though the local campaigns are on a much smaller level, they mirror the national process in a lot of ways," says senior Tessa F., who volunteered on Seattle mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan's campaign. "It is an interesting look into how campaigning works, and we get the opportunity to learn what people go through to get elected."

Spencer F., who volunteered for Seattle mayoral candidate Cary Moon, noticed that despite the progressive similarities of the two mayoral candidates, many people are firmly entrenched in their political opinions. Nevertheless, he found opportunities to inform and educate voters.

“After 15 hours of volunteering, out of everyone I talked to, perhaps only five to seven people were actually undecided. I take that rare time to try and connect on a personal level, and express why I support the candidate."

The campaign project requires students to compile an election portfolio comprised of a reflective paper, an interview with the candidate or a member of their staff, critiques of campaign literature from both sides, and an analysis of media coverage during the campaign.

In light of the elevated role social media now plays in politics, Tessa focused her media coverage analysis on the social media platforms of both candidates. She signed up to be part of Durkan's social media task force, and the amount of coordination involved surprised her.

Says Tessa: "We think of social media as this organic spread of information, but in the campaigns, it is a highly structured effort.”