About 700 D.C. public school students converted a Southeast Washington school auditorium into an old-fashioned political convention hall yesterday, complete with campaign posters, ribbons, balloons and fiery speeches.
Their foray into the drama, suspense and pressure of politics ended with screams of victory and tears of defeat as the ballots were tallied and the new student representative to the D.C. Board of Education and new citywide student government officers were announced.
More than 55 candidates, ranging from reserved but self-assured elementary students to aggressive senior high school teen-agers, tried to win the votes of the convention delegates, who represented 85,000 students at more than 100 schools across the city.
Angela Hill, 16, a junior at Woodson Senior High in Northeast Washington, won the school board seat. Hill's forceful speech about the failings of public education, widespread drug abuse, "uncommitted teachers," and decaying school building apparently swayed many delegates. She won 66 percent of their votes.
Wallace Southerland III, 16, a junior at the School Without Walls in Northwest, finished second and Sean Mack, 16, a junior at Roosevelt High School in upper Northwest, was third.
In addition, officers of the city-wide student government organization, called the Student Advisory Council, were elected. The SAC, composed of the upper house and lower house, serves as the students' voice before school administrators and city officials. It has about 2,000 members.
Jonathan Schwartz, 15, a sophomore at Banneker Academic High School in Northwest, was elected president of the upper house, composed of secondary school students; April Watts, a sixth grader at Leckie Elementary School, won the presidency of the lower house, for elementary school students.
Katina Wells, 9, a sixth grader at Tubman, who was elected recording secretary of the lower house, said in her campaign speech, "I am punctual, dependable . . . I listen carefully and I speak clearly." Then she added, "My handwriting is legible and I take excellent notes. These qualifications will help me do an exemplary job as recording secretary."
Ballots provided by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics were used in the voting and elections board officials supervised the ballot counting at Fletcher-Johnson school.
"This was an opportunity for the students to learn about government and the political process," said Nona Johnson, coordinator of student activities. "They develop public speaking skills and lobbying skills by running for office and working to elect candidates."
"I'm excited by the fact that we have so many students here, some with their parents and teachers and principals," said Marilyn Brown, assistant superintendent for student services.
Angela Hill, who has no vote on the board, said, "I am so happy my fellow students have put so much faith in me and my abilities to represent them."
Outgoing student board representative Monica Jones, of Coolidge High School in Northwest, said she did not seek reelection because she will study in Germany next year.