MEMPHIS, Tenn — As early voting begins in Memphis, a high school is working to get the younger generation more politically engaged, using its courses to encourage students to focus on the upcoming mayoral election.
Crosstown High School teacher Ty Boyland is implementing music, guest speakers, and an open line of communication to connect his class with the real world.
“Why shouldn’t we guide them into politics?” Boyland said. “Because it’s one of those areas to where it’s paramount to their future lives and their present lives.”
From the city to the state, Crosstown High students are learning all about politics.
“At the different gun laws – we talked about the special session that was held in Tennessee … (and) we talked about the mayoral debate,” said Max McClung, Crosstown High senior.
“It would be very hard for a person to pick up a football in the 12th grade and then go straight to the NFL,” Boyland said. “You know you have to be trained on those things, you have to be involved in those things and learn the ins and outs. So the earlier we condition young people to how politics works, I think the better decisions they will make in picking the people that represent them.”
This year, the ballot is packed with mayoral candidates, and every single city council seat is up for grabs. This is a few too many for McClung.
“I think 17 candidates is a lot,” McClung said. “It makes it harder to take in more information about who they are, what they believe in, and then you have to organize that and then decide which one you agree with the most.”
So students have taken steps to better understand individual candidates, such as senior Anaya Howard, who hosts a podcast with current and potential city leaders.
“I also interviewed candidate JW Gibson and learned a lot of information from him on changing Memphis around and getting youth involved in that,” Howard said.
Crosstown High teacher Kat McRitchie gets her students involved both in and out of school. She brought some students to ABC24’s mayoral debate earlier this week.
“They were able to call when people were describing specific policy ideas and when people were talking about generalizations, and their analysis of that after the fact was really interesting,” McRitchie said.
McRitchie and Boyland are hoping to host more students in their politically focused classes in the years to come, also encouraging all young people to get involved in politics earlier so they know who to vote for to have their voices heard.