Press-Republican

October 31, 2012

Keene students offer third-party forum

By KAITLYN AFFUSO
Press-Republican

---- — When it comes to voting, many think only of the Democratic and Republican parties, but be prepared to see a few more on the voting ballot.

The third parties are being presented to students at Keene Central School like never before. An event was pulled together from the spark of an idea from a student’s parent and brought to life by a government teacher.

The forum is to take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, in the High School auditorium and cover both Democratic and Republican parties, as well as the Green Party, Party of Socialism and Liberation, Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party.

They will refrain from discussing the Independence Party, Working Families Party and Conservative Party because they mostly repeat the two presidential candidates.

‘DRIVING FORCE’

Brad Hurlburt, the High School government teacher, said the primary focus of this event is to spread awareness of the third parties and to create a forum where a broad spectrum of research and ideas are presented.

It was Fred Balzak, father of student Sam Balzak, who had the idea to organize the event regarding the third parties. Hurlburt was pleased with his idea and went through with it.

“He’s (Mr. Balzak) been the driving force on putting this together,” Hurlburt said. Seeing student’s parents so involved in their education is affirming, he said, and it’s an even bigger advantage when they jump ahead to make things happen, as Mr. Balzak did.

“Many issues and also many potential solutions are not being discussed by them (Obama and Romney) or their parties,” Mr. Balzak said. He sees the forum as a way to broaden the discussion on the candidates, the different parties and the election as a whole.

In addition to the students being assigned a party to research in order to present them, it has also been arranged for a representative from certain political parties to attend.

“People can be exposed to a nice variety of ideas,” Hurlburt said.

HOME DISCUSSIONS

Mr. Balzak said he got this idea because his son has always shown an interest in politics — getting that from his parents— and has a strong concern for the environment and the future of the planet, as well as what his generation is going to have to overcome once they reach adulthood.

“We’ve been having a lot of discussions at home about that (Sam’s concerns) and the political systems and the presidential race this year and some other things, and so that was one of the sparks for this idea,” he said.

Sam Balzak said he thinks the research is providing a great opportunity for students to learn about alternative parties.

“I definitely would like the audience to know about these third parties. And it’s a great chance for me to take a stance of another party.”

He is doing his class research on the Green Party, which is good for him, he said, because he is an active environmentalist.

“The third parties are interesting because they’re non-mainstream,” he said.

Hurlburt said the event will shy away from debates, but rather have its primary focus on awareness and educating the audience of what each party represents. In order to spread awareness, his government-class students will present a Power Point with the information they have found.

STUDENT RESEARCH

“At first, I thought it was going to be a boring school project, but I’m representing a party that stands for things that I don’t,” KCS student Athena Pepe said.

She has been assigned the Constitution Party, which she said is anti-abortion, anti-gun, anti-gay marriage and pro-school prayer. This party is strictly based on constitutional rights and is religiously oriented, and it doesn’t elaborate into present issues, which she said she disagrees with.

“It (research) was fun just because it was so shocking,” she said.

She said all research by students was done solo, and Hurlburt gave them some class time, as well, for the work.

“I get stage fright, so I’m nervous to interact with people,” Pepe said about a possible Q and A session that will be held during the event.

Having turned 18 this year, Pepe said she is registered, ready and excited to vote.

“I know I won’t be voting for the Constitution Party,” she said, laughing.