Students develop their own political opinions at South

Contrary to popular belief, many high school students are politically involved. As a junior at Nashua High South, I see it all the time. On social media, I see my classmates share opinions about candidates and policies. In school, I hear the occasional political arguments. We even discuss and make fun of candidates after important debates (Donald Trump is quite the hot topic recently).

This interest in a presidential election, however, is something new for many South students. For most, this is the first election that they have followed. Current freshmen were only 10 years old when the 2012 primary occurred, too young to develop opinions on candidates or participate in debates. Now, as more mature students, many are beginning to get involved.

Take senior Shani Zhang, for example. During the last election, she did not follow the politics at all, apart from vague mentions of the front-runners. This year, Zhang has taken a much more involved stance, actively watching debates and sharing her opinions on candidates.

"I had never really paid much attention to election before, but this year I am definitely ‘feeling the Bern,’?" she said.

South students recently had an opportunity to showcase their opinions at a schoolwide mock primary election, run by the AP Government class. In both the mock election and official primary, Bernie Sanders won the Democratic ballot and Donald Trump won the Republican ballot. The results were prophetic of the results from the actual primary the following week. The results of the Trump vote only differed 0.7 percent from South to the official election (36 percent and 35.3 percent, respectively).

Why would the two results be so similar? Are students beginning to develop their own political opinions, or are they still just mere reflections of their parents’ ideals?

South junior Matthew Dulac suggested the latter. "A lot of people – students are no exception – either follow what their parents are voting for or what the media is paying attention to," Dulac said. "Obviously there are some exceptions, but I don’t know how many people are involved in politics around the high school age, especially freshmen or sophomore kids."

Freshman Yesha Patel, however, suggested that South students are in tune with the politics around them and are making informed votes due to their own preferences – not their parents’.

"Around the time you enter high school, you start distancing yourself from your parents’ opinions and forming your own," Patel said. "I think that a vast majority of the votes were genuine, well-educated votes."

Young people have a bad reputation as uninformed and absent voters, but as I manned a bake sale at the Ledge Street voting center on the night of the primaries, I was approached by several young, first-time voters. They were unsure about the process of voting but had come to have their voices heard and cast an educated ballot for what they believe in. It was heartwarming to see young people excited to participate in their government.

Paulina Tarr is a junior at Nashua High School South.