LIHU‘E — Nearly 14,000 students from schools across the islands cast their votes on key public-policy issues in the Kids Voting Hawai‘i process, both on-line and at participating schools. Kids Voting Hawai‘i aspires to engage all Hawai‘i youth in voting at an early age, hoping that as adults they will be engaged citizens.
“Engaging our children in voting gives them a voice in the issues that directly impact them — including school funding, college affordability and global warming,” said Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. “Kids Voting helps them understand their civic responsibility and power.”
Kids Voting Hawai‘i took place in public and private schools across the state, with students from kindergarten to 12th grade weighing in on policy questions including lowering the voting age, moving to an elected state Board of Education, allowing the BOE student representative to vote, banning flavored tobacco products, addressing the climate crisis, providing more social-emotional support for youth, and making school lunches more locally sourced and sustainable.
Syler Nero, an eighth-grader and a distance learner at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama, explained why he voted.
“It was fun,” Nero said. “I just voted on the candidate I wanted to see as our president. I think after this experience, I do see myself voting when I am an adult.”
Nero’s younger brother, Lytron Shinno, a fifth-grader and a distance learner at Wilcox Elementary School in Lihu‘e, also voted.
“There were questions on the presidency, the mayor and stuff about Hawai‘i,” Shinno said. “I voted because it seemed like it would be fun and, after voting, I think I will vote when I get older.”
These ballot questions, which differed for elementary and secondary students, were developed by students from various student organizations, including the Hawai‘i State Student Council, the Hawai‘i Youth Climate Commission, the Hawai‘i Youth Agricultural Council and the Sunrise Movement.
While student responses on the ballot questions varied by grade level, school and complex, secondary students across the state expressed a strong consensus on the importance of raising the minimum wage (83% in favor), providing more social-emotional support for students in the school (90% in favor), providing more emergency shelters for youth (92% in favor), and creating school lunches that support sustainability efforts, use local food and create less food and plastic waste (93% in favor).
Students will have the opportunity to organize with various advocacy organizations and legislators to address these concerns in the 2021 state legislative session.
The Kids Voting Hawai‘i 2020 initiative was facilitated by the Civic Education Council and supported by the state Department of Education, Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools, Hawai‘i Council for Humanities, Hawai‘i Judiciary History Center, League of Women Voters, and HSTA.
More information can be found at civiceducationcouncil.org.
Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.