McDuffie County voters will likely see some fresh young faces when they go to the polls this election cycle. Twenty-eight Thomson High School students are earning volunteer hours toward a civic engagement diplomacy seal by volunteering as poll workers. Other teens helping at the polls are involved in Youth Leadership McDuffie, a chamber of commerce program.
Through their volunteerism, teen volunteers say they are learning the value of community involvement and the importance of voting.
“It helps us prepare to vote,” teen poll worker Cameron Ivey said.
Teen volunteer Chelsea Harrison said she’s had fun learning how the state’s new voting equipment operates.
Mario Hall said he has enjoyed assisting voters with the process, entering their data and handing them their voter cards for the ballot machines.
Hall, Harrison and Ivey are 11th graders at THS. All three hope to go into the medical field once they finish college.
Angie Roberts, Thomson High School Career & Community Liaison, supervises the students in the civic engagement program. Roberts is also involved with Youth Leadership McDuffie.
Roberts explained that the civic engagement curriculum has strict guidelines. Students must earn 30 volunteer hours plus 15 hours of civic engagement, she said. They are also required to give a presentation on the importance of community involvement and undergo an assessment.
“Twenty-one seniors are on track to receive the seal,” Roberts said.
Students in the civic engagement program are invited to meet county and city officials and board of education representatives, to ask questions and discuss issues that impact the local community, according to Roberts.
She said students also learn how the outcome of local elections can impact their day-to-day lives.
The chamber’s youth leadership program prizes community involvement and focuses on growing the community’s next generation of leaders, according to Roberts and Rosa Hunt. Hunt, a poll worker and retired educator, is also involved with Youth Leadership McDuffie.
Students in the chamber’s two-year youth leadership program attend workshops their first year, using curriculum put out by the J. W. Fanning Institute for Leadership. They go into the community the second year, according to Roberts. One month they might participate in an Industry Day, the next a Community History Day, she said.
Hunt said youth leadership participants recently visited Chick-fil-A headquarters in Atlanta, to observe the company’s servant leadership model.
Hunt said various adults have told her this week during early voting that they are impressed by the teen poll workers’ collective work ethic and positive attitude.
“They’re doing an excellent job,” Hunt said of the teen poll workers. “They were here at 7 a.m.”
“And they aren’t allowed to have their cell phones,” Roberts added.
Elections Director Phyllis Wheeler said she’s excited about the teen poll workers helping out.
“It gives them a better perspective of the entire election process,” she said.