Carbondale Middle School students put mayoral candidates on the hot seat

Carbondale Middle School students put mayoral candidates on the hot seat
By: Carly O'Keefe
CARBONDALE, Ill. - It's not unusual to have a political debate within a week of the election, but at one Carbondale mayoral candidate forum, there are no votes to be won. That's because the moderator and everyone in the audience were middle school students.
"The children decided they wanted to research the candidate platforms and have a debate," said Carbondale Middle School Talented and Gifted Program teacher Karen DeVantier.

The questions posed by a panel of Carbondale Middle school Students were not what you'd imagine a child would ask. "They were very interested in the process. It's nice to hear their questions, and they had some really good questions," said mayoral candidate Sheila Simon.

The questions covered a broad range of topics from building a city swimming pool and economic development, to global warming and racial issues. Every question was thought of and asked by a middle school student. "For the last few weeks, we've been making questions, doing research, learning about the candidates their campaigns, their platforms," said Carbondale Middle School student and debate moderator Ben Chametcky.

Some of the students wore campaign buttons to show their support for candidates they would vote for if they were old enough. "We had some people for Cole, some for Sheila Simon, so we tried to keep it as balanced as possible," said DeVantier.

Student Kristine Pye said the debate helped the kids feel, even if they can't cast a vote yet, they're still part of the process. "I think it gives us a say, and it makes us want to get more into politics," Pye said.

Incumbent Mayor Brad Cole was offered an on-camera interview but declined.