KidsVoting attracts $15,000 donation
The big news Thursday night — that WPX Energy donated $15,000 to the Mesa County Chapter of KidsVoting — was not lost on Francisco Castillo, 13, of Orchard Mesa Middle School.
Francisco, a seventh-grader, is running for student body vice president, the highest office he is eligible for at the school. He wanted to run for president, but only eighth-graders are allowed.
Francisco is running on a platform of updating school rules and making spirit rallies and dances more fun. He’s been campaigning for two weeks. The experience has had its ups and downs, he said.
“I like that I get to put up my posters and show my appreciation of our school ... The thing I don’t like about it is (some of the students are) judgmental because I’m a different race from them,” Francisco said.
Learning about the rough and tumble of politics is one of the goals of KidsVoting, a nonprofit group that provides nonpartisan civics education to students.
Francisco attended the downtown meeting of the Mesa County chapter Thursday with his mother and two brothers to show his support.
About 70 other people were there for the same reason, including parents, children, and a variety of community leaders, like former Congressional candidate Dan Robinson, current state senate candidate Claudette Konola, Grand Junction City Councilman Duncan McArthur and Jolynn Phillips, chairwoman of the Mesa County Democratic Party.
KidsVoting needs money to continue next year. A drop in funding from local government has forced it to ramp up private fundraising efforts. Should it fail to raise at least $45,000, it may not be able to continue through 2014, KidsVoting board member Bud Winslow said.
The good news is checks are coming in, including most recently, the WPX gift presented Thursday night by Jeff Kirtland, a $5,000 donation from the Bacon Family Foundation and two anonymous donors who gave $1,000 each.
The money could allow the program to continue its mission: To help young people understand how to exercise their Constitutional right to vote, said KidsVoting board member Linda Reeves, a retired American history and government teacher.
“We want (students) to understand that they, too, can a have a voice in what happens and it can be through voting or it can be telling people who are elected how they feel about issues,” Reeves said.
Elijah Rubick, 11, an East Middle School sixth-grader, got the message.
“In first grade, when I was at Scenic Elementary (School), it was really fun. My mom helped host it and I voted.”
Elijah said that because of KidsVoting, he followed the 2008 presidential election with his grandfather. When it came time for his first-grade class to vote for president, he said he made an informed choice.
“I voted for President Barack Obama, number one, because I learned he would be our first black president and (number two) because my grandpa, whenever I went down to his house, we always watched the news and I got to see most of (Obama’s) speeches,” he said.