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"A larger connection to society": Nipomo students to hold public forum on politics, policy

New Tech High.jpg
Beth Thornton
Students from Central Coast New Tech High in Nipomo will present their political platforms at Salon Night on December 1. The community is invited to participate in the free event.

Each year, juniors at Central Coast New Tech High School in Nipomo, California, do a political science project to learn about the government and create their own political platforms.

Ryan James co-teaches the course with Caitlin Cocuzzo. He said they ask their students to look beyond the two-party political system, and focus on policies.

“To do that, we had to remove the words Republican and Democrat from the whole conversation because there’s so much baggage and stereotypes associated with those two words, so the kids really wrestle through policies instead of those political terms,” James said.

Central Coast representatives are invited to speak to the class about local government, and students work in groups to do research, choose a name for their party, and create posters. Then they present their ideas to the community at a public forum called Salon Night.

“This project, Salon Night, is a great example of how the kids are learning all these skills and gaining this knowledge, but it’s really for a larger connection to society, not just a scantron test,” James said.

Junior Cole Aguirre said the assignment is a way for students to discover their own independent beliefs.

“A lot of people tend to instantly kind of vote with who their parents say they should, but I wanted to really see what I believed in and not just follow what they thought,” Aguirre said.

Fellow student Leila Zavala said the assignment spurred an interest in politics.

“I was excited to figure out my own beliefs and how I would back them up with research and evidence, which is what we are assigned to do,” Zavala said.

The free event is December 1 at 6 p.m. inside the South County Regional Center. The format is similar to a political convention, where students will try to convince attendees to vote for their platform.

Teacher Ryan James said everyone is welcome, and the voting age for this particular night is 12-years-old.

Find more information on the KCBX calendar or visit the website for Central Coast New Tech High.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.
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