Seniors take on Election Day


Submitted photo

(Left to right) Seniors Olivia Aberegg, William Kothe, and Katie Gearhart were three of several dozen seniors who worked the polls across Centre County on November 8.

Emma Homan, Feature News Director

On Tuesday, November 8, the halls of Bellefonte High were noticeably empty: classes typically full of seniors were sparse. Instead of class, these students were doing a different kind of civic duty: working the election.

Across the county, many poll positions are left unfilled. Rather than leaving the government workers to scramble for volunteers, Bellefonte government teacher Mr. Edward Fitzgerald had a different plan: to use high school seniors to fill those positions and work the polls. 

“It started in my AP class over 26 years ago. I thought it would be a good experience for them and I asked at Voter Registration if they’d be willing to work with me on it. The Voter Registration people were very supporting and excited,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.

As the years went on, more and more seniors began to fill in missing spots in voting booths across the county, and while they may have been missing school, they were learning in a different way. Government teacher Mrs. Allyson Durney believes that the poll working experience is invaluable to a high school senior.

“Students really gain an understanding of the election process and what goes into making elections work.  Poll workers are invaluable to the election process and it’s a really cool thing for our students to take ownership of civic responsibility and assist,” Mrs. Durney said.

Students filled many jobs in instructing and managing the election process, in small groups sent to different locations across the county.

Mr. Fitzgerald feels strongly about the importance of this tradition, for both his students and the local community.

“Whenever we can involve the younger generation into the election process, the better it is for all. Because, in the end, the next generation needs to step up and take over these responsibilities…That firsthand experience helps not only our society, but it helps them to be able to debunk any misinformation about elections that is floating about in our society today,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.

Mrs. Durney felt similarly, commending her students for taking the opportunity and responsibility to help their community. 

“They should all be commended for answering the call to service,” she said.

For now, the students are back in Bellefonte for their classes and activities, but the information and experience they gained from their public service is nothing to be scoffed at. Come next election they’ll be more prepared to do their civic duty, and the next generation of seniors will be in their place, helping along the way.