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A CALL TO ACTION: Nashua student sworn in as Kid Governor

Photo by MATHEW PLAMONDON Nashua fifth-grader Lola Giannelli is adorned with a New Hampshire sash after being sworn in as the state’s Kid Governor, Friday at the State House in Concord.

CONCORD – Nashua resident Lola Giannelli, a fifth-grader at Sunset Heights Elementary School, is now New Hampshire’s Kid Governor.

Surrounded by family, teachers, classmates and New Hampshire lawmakers during the Friday afternoon ceremony at the State House in Concord, Giannelli, and the two other fifth-graders who ran against her, participated in a ceremony swearing them in as junior civil servants.

Giannelli and her two executive councilors, fifth-graders Evelyn Ellis-Haines of Canterberry Elementary in Canterbury, and Ben Vachon of Beaver Meadow School in Concord, each presented campaigns to fifth-graders throughout the state in the effort to become Kid Governor. Each took their oaths during the ceremony.

Through the New Hampshire Kid Governor program, which has been infused as a part of the fifth grade curriculum in some schools, students can learn about civil service and local government. The three candidates chose platforms on which to run their campaigns and presented them to their classes. After being voted on in their respective schools, the students then made campaign videos which they presented to other fifth grade classes participating in the program.

Giannelli ran her campaign on ending animal cruelty. During her speech, she thanked all those who supported her, including her teacher and her classmates. During her speech, she made a call to action.

“We made it this far, and now is when the real work begins,” Giannelli said during her speech where she went on to ask the fifth-graders in attendance to join her cause. “Can I count on you guys to help me?”

Her plans include running food and clothing drives, as well as an after-school dog toy-making club. One major change that Giannelli said she hopes to see involves changing laws concerning how pet stores are allowed to sell animals. She cited California laws that ban pet shops from selling cats, dogs, or rabbits unless they come from a shelter or a nonprofit organization.

“Why not use this as a model for pet stores here in New Hampshire as well?” she asked regarding the California legislation.

Using the food and blanket drives, Giannelli said she will start collecting signatures and support from the community to help turn her plan into action.

Though they did not win the election, both Ellis-Haines and Vachon joined Giannelli and were sworn in by the new Kid Governor as her Executive Council. Ellis Haines, who ran her campaign for ending poverty, said she is excited to work with her new Kid Governor. Giannelli said that she wants to help her new council meet their goals they set in their campaigns as well. Vachon, the third candidate present at the inauguration had hopes of ending hunger.

With a ceremony that included a reading of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Valerie Sununu (wife of Gov. Chris Sununu) and remarks from three honorary speakers representing each of the three branches of government; the legislative, judicial and executive branches. Those remarks came from Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Lynn and Gov. Chris Sununu, each talking about their respective branch of government, as well as traits and qualities they deem useful in their designated jobs and life in general.

“I believe that leadership, whether you’re governor, or you’re class president, or you’re running a business, or you’re running a family, like first lady Valerie,” Gov. Sununu said to the fifth-graders, imparting some of the wisdom he has gained in his tenure in politics.

“It’s all about putting together a team,” he added.

The Kid Governor program, which started in Connecticut, is an award-winning civics program for fifth-graders. It was created by the Connecticut Democracy Center. In the Granite State, the program is led by the New Hampshire Institute for Civic Education.

Program Coordinator Luane Genest said classes that participate in the program enjoy the opportunity to learn about state government.

“They get to research platforms, develop speeches, and deliver those speeches to a class,” Genest said about the curriculum, “and then the class chooses candidates to represent them and then there is a school wide election.”

Genest and Martha Madsen, president of the Institute for Civic Education, said many schools participated, but only Sunset Heights, Canterberry and Beaver Meadow brought forth candidates, due to the time which that part of the curriculum consumes.

The curriculum reached more than 450 students during this year’s run, which coincided with November’s Election Day. Madsen said 461 students watched the three students’ video campaigns and participated in voting.

Mathew Plamondon may be reached at 594-1244, or at mplamondon@nashuatelegraph.com.