On the stump

Students take control, politicians take notes during high school forum in Snohomish

By BRIAN KELLY

Herald Writer

SNOHOMISH — The crowd was large and in charge.

More than 140 students gathered in the auditorium at Snohomish High School Sunday night for the Washington Student Forum, an event that gave teens a chance to share their opinions with politicians on local issues and more.

Despite being told to hold their applause until the end, the teens stretched the forum rules like a politician in a wet suit, and loudly cheered their favorite candidates and opinions.

More than two dozen politicians and candidates for state office listened, sitting on the stage at 10 red, white and blue decorated cafeteria tables. Some took notes while others just watched, hands to chin or folded prayer style in front.

Students from Everett, Snohomish and Cascade high schools attended the forum, and they didn’t have to be asked twice to step up to one of two microphones.

Traffic, teacher’s pay and abortion rights were recurring topics. But other issues hit closer to home.

One student mentioned the recent stabbing of a teenager who was using the Interurban Trail in south Everett, and asked for the installation of lighting and emergency phones. Other teens pushed for gun control and mentioned the violence at Columbine High.

"I think that we need to require gun locks," said Jessica Huard, a Cascade senior. "Force gun owners to store their weapons out of the reach of children."

Students waited patiently in line, sometimes a dozen deep, to speak. Some came armed with statistics and prepared speeches. But they had to make their opinions quick; speakers were limited to 90-second statements.

Jason Gadek, a senior at Cascade High, said rising college tuition costs were making it tough for some students to attend in-state universities. And politicians should find a solution if they want to keep their best students in Washington.

"Take that back to Olympia for me," Gadek told the politicians.

Students got class credit for attending, and some got additional class credit if they spoke.

Issues ran the gamut from religion in public schools (a bad idea, keep it out most said), to the more immediate, like turning up the heat in the Snohomish High auditorium (a good idea, crank it up).

Many said they supported Initiative 732, which would give teachers an automatic cost-of-living pay increase every year.

Higher student performance begins with higher pay for teachers, said Brett Jensen, a senior at Cascade High.

"We need to pay them what they deserve before there are no more of them left," Jensen said.

Some wanted to rage against the machines in front of them on the highway. Several used their minute-and-a-half to stump for Initiative 745, which would require 90 percent of transportation funds be spent on road construction.

Matt Krier, a Cascade student, said his parents had moved to Marysville but he wanted to spend his senior year at his old school. Frustrated by sitting in traffic, Krier said he’s only been driving two years but hates it.

"I have road rage probably every day," he said, asking for support of I-745.

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