Students cast first real-world votes

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BY ELENA GRANDE
For Your Niskayuna

NISKAYUNA — The Niskayuna Central School District budget vote and school board election on May 19 found many excited high school seniors casting a vote for the first time in an official election.

Niskayuna High School political science teacher Robyn Salvin noticed the change in students’ interest in the annual budget vote from year to year.

Salvin said that this year, interest in the budget has decreased. In recent votes, the proposed budget has involved things students are passionate about, like classes or sports in danger of being cut.

“There are no cuts involved in the budget this year,” Salvin said. “So it’s really not that big of a deal to students.”

However, some of the seniors asked for information on the candidates running for the school board.

Salvin also found that this particular election was suitable for first-time voters because the students were not required to register for it.

“I think participating in the budget vote is a nice first experience for students because they are impacted by the outcome,” Salvin said. “It also gives them a great sense of accomplishment.”

Noah Levine, a senior at Niskayuna High School with a strong interest in political science, voted because he felt doing so was a power he had as a student to have a direct impact on issues that mattered and affected him and classmates.

Levine isn’t only concerned with local school issues. He also happens to pay very close attention to issues that range from income inequality to an imbalanced educational system at the collegiate level.

“I talk to everyone I can about politics, sometimes to the annoyance of my friends,” he said.

Emily Morra, a fellow senior who just recently turned 18 in April, placed her vote in the election because she finally had the opportunity to. More importantly, she said, she voted because even though it’s her last year in the school system, her younger sister will still be there.

The issues most important to Morra are those that concern keeping as well as adding programs outside of the core curriculum that would enrich students’ learning and creativity.

“I’d like to think our votes matter,” she said. “I believe they’d make a difference in the long run.”

Barbara Burgess, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Board of Education, affirmed that the Niskayuna youth vote really does matter.

She’s pretty close to the matter — her daughter, Samantha, is a senior at the high school. Although her daughter is not yet 18, and could not vote this year, Burgess reached out to Samantha’s friends who were of voting age to try to gain their support.

Having attended numerous school board meetings in the past year, Burgess was able to establish good connections with students who also regularly attended those meetings.

“I’d be very honored to receive the high school vote,” she said. “It would be very important for me to know that I did a good job for the students.”

Burgess is a firm believer in taking advantage of the right to vote and voice an opinion on issues that matter.

“Voting on the school budget is a lowpressure environment to start in,” she said, “It’s such a great habit to get into.”