The Washington Post

Arlington teens prep for Election Day

An auditorium full of first-time voters had a chance to interview some of Virginia’s candidates for elected office Wednesday at Wakefield High School.

The Arlington County teens, mostly seniors looking forward to casting their first ballots in the general election on Nov. 5, questioned the candidates about their stances on same-sex marriage, immigration and reforming the state Standards of Learning tests.

The forum was attended by several candidates for county offices and the state Senate, as well as representatives for the Republican and Democratic tickets for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Ruben Bonilla, 19, said he is most interested in “who’s going to help me the most when it comes to college,” he said, including access to financial aid and scholarships. He hopes to go to New York University in the fall.

“Hispanics have not had the most support,” he said.

Many students in Virginia are pushing for a Dream Act that would make undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state tuition.

Government teacher Laurel Sheridan said the forum is just part of her students’ education about the campaigns. The teens were also assigned to research the different levels of government, and the candidates for each office. They made posters identifying the top three issues for each candidate, and decided who they would vote for.

Sheridan said she wants her students to understand what a large role government plays in their daily lives.

“When you get up and get on the bus in the morning, do you know who paid for the bus? Do you know who paid for the roads? The government,” she said.

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.

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