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Mamaroneck Students Learn About Political Campaigns By Joining Them

State Sen. George Latimer talks to a government and politics class from Mamaroneck High School last week.
State Sen. George Latimer talks to a government and politics class from Mamaroneck High School last week.
For the past six weeks, students in Mr. Liberti's 12th grade AP Government & Politics class have been volunteering for a political candidate of their choice.
For the past six weeks, students in Mr. Liberti's 12th grade AP Government & Politics class have been volunteering for a political candidate of their choice. Video Credit: belislecrocodile

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- For six weeks leading up to Election Day, Mamaroneck High School seniors volunteered for federal, state and village political campaigns. They'll ultimately get Advanced Placement course credit for it.

About 85 members of Joe Liberti's AP government and politics class learned about campaigning by helping with leaflets, making calls and going door-to-door.

Nearly half of them worked for state Sen. George Latimer of Rye, who was reelected to a second term in the 37th Senate District on Tuesday.

Liberti said he thinks learning about politics outside the classroom leaves a lasting impression on his students. During a visit to Latimer's campaign headquarters in Mamaroneck last week, high school seniors who shared pizza and soda with Latimer weren't shy about quizzing the state senator about his toughest votes in Albany and his odds of winning on Tuesday. Latimer said it might be close. He ended up winning by an unofficial margin of 52 percent to 48 percent for Republican challenger Joseph Dillon of Yonkers.

MHS students learned the former Rye city councilman is just as cynical as they are about state legislators who have shown unethical and even criminal behavior. "How amazing it is to see all you guys here,'' Latimer said. "A lot of people are turned off about government today. ... It's your generation's chance to do a better job."

Latimer told the students that compared to working for corporations early in his career, serving as an elected official leaves him feeling like he can make a difference. "In my governmental life, I could be myself."

Upon moving from Rye City Council to Westchester County Board of Legislators to state Assembly, Latimer said, "The issues got more difficult, but they also got more interesting. . . I enjoy having that kind of influence."

In 2012, Liberti took students to New Hampshire for the Republican Party presidential primary. Last year, his classes traveled to Washington, D.C., to witness how Congress functions.

Liberti said students come to understand that politicians like Latimer are human. Latimer talked about constituent reactions to his votes on state issues dealing with abortion and Common Core.

At the beginning of the school year, Liberti gives his classes a brochure listing campaigns and asks students to come up with questions for the candidates.

Forty-one students chose to volunteer for Latimer. Ten others picked Latimer's challenger, Joseph Dillon. Sixteen seniors chose to volunteer for Democratic candidates to the Mamaroneck Village Board of Trustees.

Four students chose to work for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's campaign. Three chose Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino. Ten volunteered for U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, a Democrat from Harrison.

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