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Early College turns SGA elections into 'teachable moment'

By Dr. Travis Towne / Lenoir County Early College High School

In an era where youth knowledge and involvement in the political system is vital to the health of our country, students at the Lenoir County Early College High School had the opportunity to vote for their Student Government representation in a way that mirrored the process and rigor of municipal, state and federal elections.

Female high school sophomore, as poll worker, explains SGA ballot to male high school freshman.Dr. Travis Towne, the Civic Literacy teacher, worked with Lenoir County Board of Elections officials to secure the use of voting booths and PrintElect, based in New Bern, donated a ballot collection box and additional voting booths to use during the voting process.

“I really wanted students to experience the voting process in a way that allowed them to see what would take place at the actual polls and really get a feel for what it was like to participate in their civic responsibility,” Towne said.

Students interested in running for an office submitted their paperwork to Elizabeth Vick-Smith, an English teacher and SGA sponsor, and were placed on a ballot for students for SGA elections.

Candidates were prohibited from campaigning near the voting areas, similar to state current election laws. Poll officials were selected from the student body to help run the voting process and help with ballot security. Students who took advantage of the opportunity to vote were required to show an ID and were given a ballot that focused on their “district” of representation – in this case, their class representatives.

Once the ballot was filled out, students were able to drop it in the secured ballot collection box and receive a specially designed Early College “I Voted” sticker.

Three adults, one male and two females, pose in front of a white wall.Students also had the opportunity to meet the new Lenoir County Board of Elections Director Kristie Smith along with Elections Supervisor Amy Morgan as the two officials observed the process during the early voting period conducted during lunchtime.

Students seemed to enjoy the entire voting process, especially learning how to fill out the same type of ballot that they would use in a regular election cycle.

“I liked that we were able to actually walk up and vote and get an ideas about the voting process,” sophomore Alicia Gonzalez-Gutierrez said.

“I liked how it was different and interesting. This year’s elections were more fun with everyone getting to experience how an actual electoral ballot is organized,” said Layla Flores, another sophomore.

“I think what I liked about it was how everyone was in their own booth and no one could see who you voted for,” sophomore Ximena Lara said.

“I had a very fun time being able to help in the process,” sophomore Ella Kennedy said. “It was a very enriching experience and I would love to do it again.”

Early College principal Steve Saint-Amand, a former social studies teacher, called this year’s school elections a “teachable moment.”

 “By creating actual ballots and voting in real election booths, our students got a real understanding of how voting works,” Saint-Amand said. “I am very thankful to Dr. Travis Towne for all he did to give our students this experience.”

On behalf of Lenoir County Early College High School, Towne thanked the Lenoir County Board of Elections and PrintElect for their support and donation of supplies for the Fall 2023 SGA Election.

Eight high school students pose in two rows with their male teacher.

Photo captions (from top):

Freshman Asher Eubanks gets instructions from Sophomore Poll Official Ella Kennedy about filling out the SGA Ballot during recent student elections that gave students at Lenoir County Early College High School a real feel for the process and rigor involved in municipal, state and federal elections.

Turning SGA elections at Lenoir County Early College High School into a ‘teachable moment’ was made possible by the cooperation of Lenoir County Board of Elections Director Kristie Smith, left, and Elections Supervisor Amy Morgan, who joined Early College Civic Literacy teacher Dr. Travis Towne to watch the balloting.

Making sure recent SGA elections at Lenoir County Early College High School ran smoothly – and mirrored state elections – were poll officials, from left, front, Daniella Avila Torres, Layla Flores, Jenna Van; and, back, Civic Literacy teacher Dr. Travis Towne, Alexis Marente, Lizeth Torres, Julian Morales, Maddy White and Ella Kennedy.