October 19, 2006
High schoolers in charge of ex-congressman’s campaign
Bob Schaffer running for re-election to state board of education
When 17-year-old Brittany Lewin went to a community breakfast in Weld County a couple weeks ago, she had no idea she would walk out a campaign manager for a former U.S. congressman and incumbent state school board member.
Lewin, a senior at the private Heritage Education School System in Greeley, said she was surprised when Bob Schaffer, a Republican running for re-election to the state education board against Democratic opponent Tom Griggs, asked her to run his campaign.
“We went out to breakfast and Mr. Schaffer was speaking, and afterward we asked how we could help his campaign, and he said, ‘Do you want to run it?’ ” Lewin said. “That is pretty much how it all got started.”
Lewin isn’t the only student helping Schaffer’s campaign.
Schaffer’s entire campaign staff, from manager to press secretary, is made up of high school students — most of whom aren’t even old enough to vote.
“From a practical standpoint, if students don’t care about education in Colorado, then it’s hard to expect that anybody else would, and I knew they could do the job and I just knew that it would work,” Schaffer said Wednesday from Phillips County on the eastern border of the state, where he and student staffers were stumping. “I have worked with many students on other campaigns and I felt this was a perfect campaign to give this (approach) a try.”
So far, the experiment has worked, Schaffer said, even admitting that the students have taught him a thing or two about the youth culture.
“I learned all about MySpace, Facebook and YouTube,” he said with a laugh, referring to the online social networking Web sites popular among teenagers and twentysomethings.
“At the very first meeting one of the students said you need a MySpace account and I said, ‘What’s that?’ and now I have one and am in touch with a billion people, apparently.”
Learning new things is happening among student staffers as well, said Jenna Jordan, a 17-year-old senior at Fossil Ridge High School who serves as Schaffer’s press secretary.
“I think the hardest part so far has been having to write stories and collect information because I am a student and not a press secretary so it’s been a learning process,” Jordan said. “But it’s been helpful to me because I want to pursue journalism as a career, so being a press secretary has really helped me a lot.”
Schaffer’s view on offering extended educational choices for parents and students is what attracted Jordan to his campaign.
“I have been a student in the Poudre School District for a while now, and I have had some issues with school, and I think it’s important that students should be able to have choices about where they go, and that is one of the (platforms) that Mr. Schaffer has,” Jordan said.
“I think it’s so important that I have been able to choose which school I could attend and even though I can’t vote, I think this is a good way to get someone elected who knows what I, as a student, want for my school district.”
With only a $5,000 campaign war chest, Schaffer said his campaign has benefited from the use of student staffers and the efforts of their parents.
“It’s pretty heartwarming that their focus is the future and they understand that in order to have a good one they have to take action now,” he said. “Even though they aren’t allowed to vote, their efforts are affecting more votes at the ballot box more than if they (cast one themselves).”
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