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ReNew New York Uses Midterm Election to Get Students Interested in Government

Students from 10 local high schools in Nassau and Suffolk counties attended ReNew New York’s high school convention entitled “Considering New York’s Structures and Challenges” on Oct. 28 at Hofstra University.  

At the all-day event, students discussed major issues regarding American politics and the 2010 midterm elections. They also engaged in debate with and proposed solutions to major issues to current or former politicians and political science professors.

Prior to the convention, each school created an issue brief compiled with research and interviews. Some students from each school also attended lectures by public officials and journalists to add to their briefs in a summer program at Hofstra. The briefs covered issues such as the national election process, the legislative redistricting procedure, and the state funding of education. Students then discussed their findings on each issue in small groups during the convention.

“It’s really important that high school students are getting together to debate these topics that at the moment don’t affect us,” said Caroline Segota, a student at Floral Park Memorial High School. “In the future, it’s going to be our generation’s responsibility to fix these problems in government.”

Also present at the event was Michael Balboni, former New York State deputy secretary for public safety. Balboni served for 10 years as state senator for the 7th District and previously served in the state Assembly. He was appointed to head New York State’s Department of Homeland Security in January of 2007 by Governor Eliot Spitzer and was reappointed by Governor David Paterson. He was also appointed by President Barack Obama as an outside advisor to his Homeland Security transition team.

Balboni talked to students about pursuing careers in government. Known for his strong platform on bipartisanship, Balboni urged students to look beyond party lines and choose to support candidates who shared concerns about the same issues.

“Go out there and help that candidate that you like,” Balboni said. “Whatever party, go work for them. You will see that you can change lives.”  

While a majority of the students in attendance were not able to vote in the 2010 midterm elections, administrators believe that the convention highly benefited students.

“[The] majority of students cannot vote, but that does not mean that they don’t have a public voice,” said Dr. John Staudt, a teacher from The Wheatley School in Westbury. “They can talk to their parents, their siblings, their teachers. They have a voice and this event helps them form their voice and shape it.”

ReNew New York is an initiative that aims to address and educate on issues that have been raised for New Yorkers as a result of the 2010 midterm elections through the coalition of News12, Newsday and Hofstra University. The initiative has held one other major event besides the high school convention, called “Looking Forward With New York’s Leaders.” Also taking place at Hofstra University, the event consisted of a panel discussion with Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, New York Republican State Committee Chairman Edward F. Cox and New York Democratic State Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs.