McAllen ISD students recently hosted a community candidate forum for those running for the U.S. Senate in the 2020 May primary elections. Those in attendance were Chris Bell, Michael Cooper, Amanda Edwards, Jack Daniel Foster Jr, Victor Hugo Harris and Sema Hernandez.
Students Jonah Riojas (McAllen High School), Karolina Vargas (Nikki Rowe High School), and Alexis Alvarado (Memorial High School) were the panelists asking questions to the candidates. Chloe Jerez (McAllen High School) was as the moderator for the event at the McAllen Convention Center. Other students worked as volunteers, signing attendees in and time-keeping.
Riojas, the student team leader, states his motivation behind the candidate forum. He wanted it to serve as a “platform for youth to vocalize their legitimate concerns and to engage locals to improve voter turnout.”
Riojas said that voter turnout is an extremely significant issue he wants to focus on. “By neglecting to vote, we aren’t putting just an election in jeopardy. We are denying what our nation could be.” he said. “Voting isn’t just a logistical issue, it’s a moral one. An increase in voter turnout leads to true representation and to better policies that affect the nation and the world.”
Creating a platform
In order to create this forum, Riojas coordinated with local campaigns to sponsor the event. These include Kassandra Elejarza, Patty O’ Caña and Norma Ramirez They, along with organizations, news outlets and political activists were asked to not only spread awareness of the event but also seek remedies to the voter turnout issue in the Rio Grande Valley.
Finally, Riojas and his team did extensive research and formulated concise questions about current issues in society. This includes medicare for all, abortions, gun control, the economy, immigration and more.
“Youth should get more involved in their community and politics, even if they are not of voting age because these issues affect all of us in one shape or another,” Riojas suggested. “Youth deserve representation on all political matters.”
Although these teens are not of voting age, they are still making an impact in their community by educating the public about the candidates running for office and representing them in the U.S. Senate.