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Students to Question 32nd, 43rd Ward Candidates in Last Debate

By Paul Biasco | February 17, 2015 5:35am
 Students from Alcott College Prep prepare for Tuesday's forum.
Students from Alcott College Prep prepare for Tuesday's forum.
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LAKEVIEW — The candidates from the 43rd and 32nd Wards are about to face their toughest critics yet: high school students.

The students from Alcott College Prep hope to questions the candidates just days before Election Day on a number of topics ranging from educational policy, zoning and day-to-day ward work.

The first-of-its-kind forum is being planned mostly by the students at the high school, 2957 N. Hoyne Ave.

All four candidates in the 43rd race and two candidates in the 32nd plan to attend.

The forum is set for Tuesday night from 5-7 p.m. and is open to the public.

The first hour will focus on the community's relationship with aldermen and how to increase civic engagement, voter turnout and communication within the ward, and the second hour will open up to questions on city-wide issues and other topics.

The students are setting up a Twitter and email question line where neighborhood residents who can't make the forum can submit questions. 

Students at the high school have been studying how current elected aldermen, Michele Smith (43rd) and Scott Waguespack (32nd), have voted in the past.

"Basically, we want to ask about their priorities. How does the community affect their decisions?" said Sam Sinclair, a 17-year-old junior from Jefferson Park. "Most aldermen are rubber-stamping, so we don't want to necessarily call them out on that, but get clarification."

Alcott has invited parents, students and staff from neighboring schools including Alcott Elementary School, Francis Parker, Lane Tech, Lakeview High School, Wells High School, Jahn Elementary School, Burley Elementary School and Audubon Elementary School to participate.

Last week, many teachers at Alcott took their students into the neighborhood, passing out fliers and canvassing the neighborhood to drum up attention for the forum.

The students passed out 1,500 fliers.

"We try to tell them that they really do have potential to create change in their community," said Heather Van Benthuysen, an English teacher who runs the school's Social Justice League club. "I think they don't really get it until they see it, so that's why we really try to set up these authentic events."

After the forum, candidates will be able to set up tables and sign up interested student volunteers for the last week of campaigning.

"We are very excited, especially the students, because we learned basically all the issues that they are tackling that involve the community," said 18-year-old senior Bea Eusevio, who lives in Roscoe Village.

The event is being organized by Alcott's Student Voice Committee and Mikva Challenge in the school's gym.

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