College students take leadership role at forum

October 20, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - Freshman Heather Elliott paced the lobby of Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater reading her lines aloud.

It was about an hour before showtime Thursday night, and Elliott, 18, was nervous.

She wasn't getting ready to act in a play. She was about to moderate a televised candidates' forum.

It was going to be her first time on TV, but she said she wasn't letting the early case of jitters discourage her.

"You're supposed to be nervous in any show business-type thing," she said. "Nervous is a good thing. It means that you're prepared."

"I just think it's an overall good experience," Elliott said.

The forum Thursday was the second in as many days at Kepler Theater to be run by American government and political science students. Fifty to 60 students participated.


Close to 50 spectators attended Thursday night.

"I hope they gain a greater understanding of the election process ..." and a working knowledge of the elected positions "and how it relates to our lives," Associate Professor Spring Ward said of her students.

HCC students have been involved with political forums since the 1990s, she said.

The event Thursday featured candidates for the Washington County Board of Education and local candidates for the Maryland House of Delegates. The forum on Wednesday featured candidates running for Washington County Commissioner, Washington County Sheriff and Washington County State's Attorney.

HCC sponsored the forums jointly with The Herald-Mail Co., the Washington County League of Women Voters and Antietam Cable Television Inc.

"The students, by and large, have done an admirable job stepping up to the plate to a new challenge" Ward said.

Shortly before the forum Thursday, Ward ran down the list of duties students were to perform.

Megan Deener, 19, and Jenny Peralta, 20, both sophomores, sat at a table and greeted people as they walked in.

They said it was their first time participating in a forum.

"I'm hoping to learn what the candidates really feel the issues are," Deener said.

Sophomores Carrie Johnson and Steven Broussard said their job was to serve as "runners," meaning they were to gather index cards containing questions from spectators.

"We're really important," Johnson, 19, joked.

"Very important," Broussard chimed in.

Most of the questions were written by Ward's students, but some also were from the audience.

Broussard, 18, said this is the first year he's able to vote, so he was excited about the forum.

"I want to get to know, basically, who is running our government," he said.

"I'm hoping to learn what all the candidates are standing for," Johnson said.

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