The high school seniors were introduced to the electoral process.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- The point was repeatedly driven home: If you want a voice in what happens in your community, you need to vote.
The point was made Monday by Mahoning County Board of Elections officials and a pair of officeholders. The point was made to about two dozen government class seniors at Fitch High School.
"It was interesting how they stressed how important it is to vote and that votes can come down to young voters," said Sara Canale, 18, who voted for the first time in November.
Carrie Dellesky, 18, said the presentation helped her realize how important one vote can be in some races.
Over the years, some local elections have been decided by a handful of votes.
Dellesky was registered to vote last year, but opted not to cast a ballot because she felt she was not well-enough informed about the candidates and issues. But she plans to vote this year.
Although they praised the presentation, which urged the students to take a more active role in politics, Canale and Dellesky said they weren't particularly interested in getting involved in politics.
"But if I like a candidate, I'd pass out fliers for them," Dellesky said.
Focus of presentation
The presentation's focus was to introduce students to the electoral process and get them registered, said Raymond Butler, community liaison for the elections board.
A recent registration drive at Fitch held by Judy Hopper, a government teacher, resulted in 105 registered voters at the high school. Elections board officials are visiting high schools in the county to deliver the voter participation presentation and to register students who will be 18 by the Nov. 4 general election.
Students also heard stories from local officials -- Michael Sciortino, elections board director; county Recorder Ronald Gerberry; and Youngstown Councilman Richard Atkinson -- about how they got involved in politics.
Sciortino said while he attended Fitch, he pounded yard signs for Gerberry, a family friend, who was running for the Ohio House of Representatives at the time. Sciortino said when he was a Fitch student, he never envisioned himself getting involved in politics, much less serving as director of the elections board.
After Sciortino switched his college major from pre-med to political science, he said his relationship with Gerberry helped open some political doors for him.
Gerberry told the students how he won a seat on the Austintown school board in 1973 at age 20, two years after his graduation, and became his teachers' boss.
Atkinson was active in local Republican politics for years, pounding yard signs at age 12, but he did not join city council until he was 56 years old in 1998.
"It was great to hear the perspectives of someone who ran for office at a young age and someone who waited," Dellesky said.