Carus Elementary student makes push for Oregon's Kid Governor
Carus Elementary fifth grade student Brady Ackerman was chosen this month to be one of eight general election candidates in the state for Oregon's Kid Governor.
While Ackerman did not walk away with the title, he has only positive things to say about participating in the program.
"It was awesome. I really liked it," Ackerman said.
Oregon's Kid Governor is a statewide civics program for fifth grade students that was launched this year by the Oregon Secretary of State's Office. It was modeled after and is an affiliate of Connecticut's Kid Governor program.
Carus parent Christine Drazan pushed to bring the program to Carus.
"I was the chief of staff to Oregon's Speaker of the House, and I worked in the legislature for eight years. So, I have a real love of policy and government," Drazan said. "So for me, this program, when I saw that they were going to do it, I was just like: oh we have to do this in our school."
While teachers and staff couldn't find time for it in the classroom, they did allow it as an after-school program, led by Drazan. She had six fifth grade students participate in the club, which involved learning and practicing the lessons provided in the toolkit from the Secretary of State's Office.
"The curriculum is really, really good," Drazan said. "It's very engaging for the kids. They have to do their own research on their own policies they're interested in. It has to be tied to something that matters to fifth graders, that fifth graders can work on."
Students learned about government, and then for the five who wanted to run for kid governor, they developed a platform for their own campaign. Participants did a full research project on the issue of their choice, and then made a campaign video which included: why they wanted to be kid governor, their leadership qualities, the community issue of their choice and a 3-point plan that will help fifth graders across Oregon make a difference on that issue.
"Carus had five kids who ran for governor from our club," Drazan said. "Among those five kids, they addressed issues like homelessness and child abuse and bullying and pollution and…protecting animals."
In his campaign video, Ackerman discussed the prevention of child abuse. His ideas included creating an online survey for kids from which professionals can report abuse if needed, establishing a buddy system of reporting abuse at school and creating protective code inside of video games to allow kids to report abuse.
"Thank you and hope you vote for me for kid governor," Ackerman said in the video. "I have big goals and plans to make a difference in our state."
After viewing the five campaign videos and participating on campaign committees, Carus fifth grade students selected Ackerman as their school's nominee.
"He kind of surprised me a little bit with his ability to be such a great little public speaker," said Ackerman's mom Stacey Ackerman. "I thought that was really cool. He did an awesome job with his speech. He had the whole thing memorized within 24 hours. He didn't use any notecards when he gave his speech, so I was really impressed with that."
Ackerman's video was sent to the Secretary of State's Office, where a committee selected him as one of Oregon's top eight candidates out of approximately 35 participating schools. The top candidates' videos were posted on the kid governor website for participating schools to vote on and select their kid governor.
Dom Peters, of Willamette Valley Christian School, came out with the win for his video on bullying.
"I was really proud of all of the participants," Stacey Ackerman said. "We've never done this at Carus before, so it was new to everybody. They didn't really know ahead of time what they were getting themselves into. So I thought they were really brave, putting themselves out there to give a speech, and the speeches were presented in front of their classmates. So I was just really proud of all of the kids that tried it."
After elections were over, on Nov. 30, former Governor of Oregon Ted Kulongoski visited with Carus fifth graders who ran for kid governor, presented them with certificates and spoke to the rest of the fifth grade students.
Ackerman doesn't imagine having a future as a politician, because sports trumps politics, but if he could do both he would. And he had a message for any kids considering participating in the program.
"If anybody is thinking about it, thinking like, 'Should I? Should I not?' tell them to do it," Ackerman said.
Drazan is hoping to bring the program back to Carus for future years, and while her daughter is moving onto sixth grade next year, she is still willing to continue to help facilitate. She also hopes the program might spread to other Canby elementary schools.
"It just has so many good qualities as far as this opportunity to give kids a very direct experience with this idea of being a candidate or a voter, or what it is that government is about," Drazan said.