In the Spotlight with Terra Brantley (Rock the Vote)

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 5:20 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - With a midterm election coming up, many students will have the chance to cast their first vote on November 8 — and a program looking to address low voter turnout, is ‘in the spotlight’ this week. WBOI 89.1 and New Tech Academy are teaching students how to become engaged and informed voters.

“What I hope to gain is knowledge and have a better understanding about our government and the governments in other countries,” senior Priscilla Ramirez told Terra Brantley, “because I don’t want to go and vote, and not understand what I’m doing and have a bad outcome because of it.”

Teacher Bob Haddad has led ‘Rock the Vote’ for the past several years. “What I was seeing was a kind of lack of enthusiasm. Teenagers kind of apathetic by nature,” he explained. “The end result is for them to know issues that are affecting them, their communities, and focus on local politics, rather than the big, shiny presidential politics that we see all the time.”

“We don’t necessarily know who are state reps are, or our state senators, or our local school board members,” he added. “I really wanted to focus on the local and statewide elections.”

Haddad feels New Tech Academy’s project-based learning model is effective at educating too. Speakers with the League of Women Voters, candidates, and WBOI’s Zach Bernard also join the class to share their knowledge.

These students are starting to get to an age where they’re becoming more politically engaged and active,” Bernard shared. “As a result, given the age we live in, they’re being hit with so much information… and also misinformation.”

“Our role as a local news organization and partner is to help them cut through the mud a little bit and have all the information that’s truly factual,” he continued, “and how to pick apart what’s fact and what’s fiction, so they have the clearest idea when they go to the voting booth when they put in their first ballot.”

Towards the end of the program, the class will participate in a town hall style discussion. “Zach and I have worked out a way to have more of a deep discussion with local government officials, candidates, and community leaders,” Haddad said. “The students will be crafting what they care about, forming a Socratic discussion with these leaders.”

To educate yourself on Indiana’s general election ballot, voting registration, and locations, you can find more information here.