Students take charge in Student-Sponsored Candidate Forum


Sunny Lu

Candidate Cort VanOstran addresses the crowd during the Student-Sponsored Candidate Forum Oct. 22. Of the four candidates, Democrat VanOstran and Libertarian Larry Kirk were the only two to attend. "Whatever your political view is I definitely think it's important that you are able to learn about and get to know the people you are voting for or who represent you," junior and co-planner Sabrina Bohn said.

Carly Anderson, Copy Editor

With nearly three months of planning behind them, students involved in organizing and executing the Parkway Student-Sponsored Candidate forum have put together a meeting for Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Parkway Central High School theatre.

“This is a student-sponsored forum, so we want the focus to be on the students, like what the students need and want or are curious about because it’s another way for them to get involved and to see how politics affect students,” junior and co-planner of the event Sabrina Bohn said.

The forum was kickstarted by Central teacher Lee Johnson, who contacted and invited all honor societies and organizations that appeared to be politically oriented.

“After having conversations with a couple of students who wanted to have a Student Candidate forum, I reached out to the sponsors of Rho Kappa [National Social Studies Honor Society] and National Honor Society, asking if their organization was interested in sponsoring the candidate forum along with Colts Demand Action,” Johnson said.

Behind the scenes, students from West, Central and South have been in charge of contacting the candidates, collecting questions from additional students and organizing the location and mechanics of the event. It was also be live streamed for anyone interested in attending who can not make it to the physical event.

“The students are doing it, I’m simply someone who is there to bounce ideas off of and advocate for them behind the scenes,” Johnson said. “I work hard to allow the students to communicate with others. I only helped them edit the draft letters they sent to candidates and I shared the Google Form with [Humanities Coordinator] Erin Croley to forward to Parkway students.”

It is integral to be an active member in our society and to get involved in the processes which affect us. As a young person in the U.S., I will likely be affected by these policies far longer than those currently in power,”

— Zahva Naeem

Letters, emails and other messages were sent to candidates Ann Wagner, Cort Vanostran, David Arnold and Larry Kirk as invitations to attend the forum and answer pre-screened questions from Parkway students. Candidate Wagner has not yet responded to the invitations.

“It’s frustrating because we want to be able to represent all sides of the political spectrum,” Bohn said. “We have a Libertarian, a Democrat and a Green Party candidate, so all we’re missing is the Republican. I would really want to hear what Ann Wagner has to say but I think it says something if she’s not actively involved in her community.”

Courtesy of Sabrina Bohn
A flyer advertises the Student-Sponsored Candidate Forum for Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District.

Alongside wanting to be a leader, Parkway Central senior and co-planner Zahva Naeem wants to emphasize the importance of student involvement in local politics.

“It is integral to be an active member in our society and to get involved in the processes which affect us. As a young person in the U.S., I will likely be affected by these policies far longer than those currently in power,” Naeem said. “Politics is one avenue than I can pursue in order to actively engage in social justice-based activism within my community.”

Johnson, who has been observing the planning process, wants to ensure that students take the opportunity to increase civic engagement and find their voice.

“I think this continues to be a very beneficial learning experience for all involved, and can be a productive and meaningful experience for all, regardless of background, identity or political opinions,” Johnson said. “As a teacher, I feel obligated to help students lead the way. Students often have the passion to make a difference, yet lack the proper direction or resources to do so. My goal is help students discover their own voice and learn the importance of conversation and of listening, truly hearing others and sharing their opinions.”