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Rock the Vote aims to 'light a fire' under students ahead of elections

Students at New Tech Academy ask questions to Democratic At Large City Council candidate Audrey Davis as part of the Rock the Vote project.
Tony Sandleben
/
89.1 WBOI
Students at New Tech Academy ask questions to Democratic At Large City Council candidate Audrey Davis as part of the Rock the Vote project.

From public libraries to churches to the classroom, candidate forum stages can take many forms. This week’s is at Wayne High School’s New Tech Academy. New Tech and various organizations throughout Fort Wayne have partnered together to get students fired up about the upcoming election through a project called “Rock the Vote”

Rock the Vote is a project designed to “light a fire” under students in New Tech Academy teacher Robert Haddad’s government classes. Haddad said this year’s municipal election, notorious for low voter turnout, makes Rock the Vote as essential as ever.

“If we’re going to have a national political establishment do better, we’ve got to do better at the local level,” Haddad said. “So, that’s what this project has evolved into.”

Rock the Vote is a project that gets students to research community issues of their choosing and directly ask political candidates questions about those issues. New Tech Academy Senior Benny Powell, who will be voting in his first election this year, said the project gives students the opportunity to be informed voters.

“I think it’s important just so we can have a better understanding of who these people are that are going to be helping run the city,” Powell said.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, his GOP opponent City Councilman Tom Didier, Clerk Kana Keesling, her Democratic opponent Porche Williams, Democratic At-Large City Council candidate Stephanie Crandall, Democratic At-Large City Councilwoman Michelle Chambers and Democratic Fourth District City Council candidate Patti Hays all participated or plan to participate in Rock the Vote by answering the questions students prepare.

Tuesday’s guest was Democratic At-Large City Council candidate Audrey Davis. She said the project gave her a snapshot of the community.

“I believe that these kids,” Davis said. “I should say these young voters, are a really good way to get a pulse of how our families and our neighborhoods and our communities are doing here in Fort Wayne.”

Haddad, two of his students and Davis all said they believe Rock the Vote should expand to more schools in the Fort Wayne community.

WBOI Program Director Zach Bernard has assisted with instruction and moderation of the Rock the Vote program since 2017.

Tony Sandleben joined the WBOI News team in September of 2022.