Mary Kiffmeyer to participate in Pierz student election project

By LORAE VARDAS
Correspondent
 Pierz Healy High School students are engaged this month in an aggressive election project.  They kicked off the event last month when 28 government students visited a campaign rally by President George W. Bush in St. Cloud.  Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, who grew up in Pierz, has accepted an invitation for a personal appearance on Oct. 15.
  Utilizing all the resources available to them, students in the government, economics and civics classes are undertaking a major “get out the vote” incentive.  Initiated by student teachers Wade Mortenson and Amanda Carry from St. Cloud State University, the classes are challenging Little Falls government students in the 2004 election education unit.  Providing oversight are teachers Dean Dahmen, Wally Brown and Gwen Gruber.
 The classes are working with the school’s video clubs coordinated by Bonnie Bieniek and the 10-district MSET interactive TV network directed by Jerry Abraham.  While details are still being finalized, Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer has agreed to participate in a student forum  on Friday, Oct. 15 at 9 a.m. in the Healy High School Media Center.
 The one-hour program will air live into classrooms over the interactive TV hookup and on public access Channels 6 in Little Falls and 10 in Pierz.  It also will be broadcast on Charter Channel 65 (local access cable) reaching 34 Minnesota cities.  An e-mail address and phone number on the screen will encourage questions from viewers.  Government students will make up the audience.  The school’s video club is in charge of technical production.
 In addition, candidate forums for the County Commissioners race will be aired via the public access channels at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 14.  A similar forum with District 12B House of Representatives candidates Greg Blaine, Al Doty and Bob Keeton is tentatively planned for Oct. 18 or 19 at 9 a.m. from Pierz. 
 Students will be designing and distributing posters around town urging voter turnout.  They plan on engaging the public in a pledge contest to see who can sign up the most people intending to vote.  Students are preparing radio spots for airing in mid-October and student teachers Mortenson and Carry are making arrangements to be guests on KLTF Party Line.
 In a preliminary inter-district educational event, County Auditor Russ Nygren will be addressing the classes regarding countywide election procedures from Little Falls Community High School on Oct. 8 at 9 a.m. on the ITV system.  Covered will be essentials like voter eligibility,  registration, absentee ballots and precinct locations, with time to ask questions.
 All this is in preparation for conducting a mock presidential election at school on Nov. 2 complete with voting booths and election judges.  A certified election judge from the Pierz precinct will be working with students to make the experience as real as possible.  Students already are keeping a scrapbook of a favorite candidate as a class project.
 About 18 seniors will be able to vote for the first time in the General Election.  Some of them may be helping man a phone bank to get voters to the polls.  They are thinking also of enlisting a service group to provide transportation to anyone who can’t drive.
 The project goal is to increase registration and voter turnout by educating students and their public regarding the issues and the election process.  Believing anything is possible in America, the student teachers researched the possibility of having presidential candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry visit Pierz.  No commitments have been forthcoming to date.  An invitation for Governor Tim Pawlenty to broadcast his weekly radio show live from school also has been extended.

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