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Delta Program Students Host Mayoral DebateThough not old enough to vote, Delta Program students recently showed they can have political influence.

Students in two social studies classes, “Debate” and “Problems that Persist,” collaborated on hosting a State College Borough mayoral race debate on Oct. 23 in the Delta auditorium. In front of the Delta student body and invited parents, candidates Michael Black, Don Hahn and Ron Madrid introduced themselves before taking turns answering 10 questions posed by students on stage.

“Welcome to our debate among the three candidates for mayor of State College,” student moderator Taylor Elliott said to the audience at the start. “You might be wondering: What does the mayor of State College do? In our town, the mayor presides over the Borough Council and approves and vetoes its decisions. The mayor also serves as the representative of State College.”

Elliott then explained the format: one-minute responses monitored by student timekeepers, a rotation for which candidate responded first, and no signs of approval or disapproval from the audience.

Teacher Lynda Hauman said her “Debate” class students initially embraced the idea of inviting the candidates to Delta to explain their views but questioned whether it would be relevant for their classmates.

“But I think they quickly recognized that the types of things they were asking applied to them, even though they can’t vote,” Hauman said. “I think that’s what really caught their interest.”

After candidates were asked to introduce themselves, they fielded questions that addressed ensuring downtown safety, working with Penn State to manage inviting controversial speakers to town, balancing development and environmental concerns, providing affordable housing, strengthening local businesses, closing part of Allen Street for a pedestrian mall, fostering positive town and gown relationships, and planning for State College in general.

Hauman said her class and teacher Lori McGarry’s class brainstormed questions, carefully narrowing down the pool to choices that encompassed a range of topics, yet were answerable within the time limit. They also kept their classmates in mind.

“We didn’t want to ask questions that were too focused on things like local ordinances and zoning laws that our audience doesn’t really know about, but rather things that students have heard about and they wonder about,” Hauman said.

Elliott said he enjoyed participating, from helping select the questions to overseeing his classmates’ queries.

“For someone like me, who doesn’t concentrate on politics too much, I thought it was good exposure for me, to sort of throw myself out there and hear what the candidates had to say,” he said. “I thought it was an overall good experience.”

Angelica Rubin thought the event proved to be educational for Delta students, raising awareness of local issues and promoting civic engagement.

“Even though we’re not allowed to vote, I think it’s very important that we know what’s happening in the community, and that we know who represents us,” she said. “I was one of the people who asked the questions, and I think being able to have a direct response to the question I asked was very important, and then I could relay the information to people who can vote.”

Another questioner, Kate Horn, said she felt more informed after taking part.

“I live in the borough so a lot of these things affect me a lot,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure what the policies of any of the candidates were before it, so it was kind of a nice experience to meet them and know what they stand for and know which one I agree with the most.”

April Staab served as one of the timekeepers, working both the timer and the colored reminder cards for the candidates. Like Rubin, she realized that she now could educate others about the campaign.

“I’m a freshman so I’m a little ways from voting, but I felt it was good to experience knowing the candidates,” she said. “Since my parents weren’t there, I went home and told them about it so they can have a better perspective on it, too.”

By Chris Rosenblum

Photo by Nabil K. Mark