‘It takes a lot of courage’: Students running for Kid President of the library learn about elections, voting

photo by: Heather Kearns

Election posters for the Lawrence Public Library's Kid President election.

Local kids are getting a chance to participate this election season by running for Kid President of the Lawrence Public Library, a new program that teaches students about running a campaign and the importance of voting.

Each week of October, about 20 kids between the ages of 8 and 11 have been meeting virtually with Jenny Cook, who came up with the idea for the program. Cook, a children’s librarian, said she wanted to do something empowering for kids “so that they can think of ways they can make a difference in the world.”

At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the polls open. About 16 kids are participating, and they have all created a poster for their campaign and a statement about what service project they hope to complete if they win. The Kid President will get a $500 budget to bring their service project to reality — as well as the honor of being the first ever Kid President of the library.

Bee Monson plans to use the money to help clean up Lawrence.

“Lawrence can be litter-free if you stick with Bee!” her slogan reads.

Charlotte wants to create letter writing kits so that Lawrence kids can stay in touch with one another through non-virtual means. Helen wants to make waiting outside the library more fun by providing food. Hannah wants to create monthly birthday boxes for Family Promise filled with cake and decorations to help everyone celebrate their birthdays.

“Families in this program are struggling with homelessness, so they don’t often have extra resources for birthday celebrations,” she said in her campaign video.

These are just some of the ideas the participants have. All can be viewed on a Google form sheet that serves as a ballot box. Not all kids included their last names on the ballot.

photo by: Contributed Photo

Helen’s campaign poster for the Lawrence Public Library’s Kid President election.

Zofia Garcia is an 8-year-old at Hillcrest Elementary School, and if she wins, she wants to help the homeless by raising money for socks, food, transportation, rain gear and more.

In a phone interview with the Journal-World, Zofia said she wants “homeless people to not lose hope.” She also said she learned how hard it is to run a campaign.

“I learned that it takes a lot of courage to do all this,” she said.

In addition to meeting with Cook and learning about big moments in campaign history, positive leadership qualities and kids who have changed the world, each week the students have also been joined by local leaders on their Zoom calls. Mayor Jennifer Ananda, University of Kansas student body president Apramay Mishra and state representative Barbara Ballard have been some of the featured guests, and they’ve told the students about the needs of the local community.

Cook said the meetings were supposed to be an hour, but most have been an hour and half.

“The kids just want to keep talking and asking questions and talking about the logistics,” she said.

photo by: Jenny Cook/Contributed Photo

Students participating in the Lawrence Public Library’s Kid President program are pictured in their Zoom meeting on Oct. 21.

Hendrix Emerson, an 11-year-old who attends West Middle School, said he’s been having fun participating in the program and that he couldn’t choose a favorite guest speaker “because they’re all great.” He said he’s been learning what he needs to work on in order to become a better leader.

photo by: Contributed Photo

Hendrix Emerson’s campaign poster for Kid President of the Lawrence Public Library.

To vote for Kid President, a ballot can be submitted online at the following link: http://bit.ly/LPLkidprez. The poll will be open from Wednesday at 3 p.m. to next Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 3 p.m. Anyone above the age of 2 is encouraged to cast a vote. People can also vote in the library, Cook said, where there will be a voting booth and voting buttons.

The kids who don’t win the title of Kid President will still get to help the winner’s service project come to fruition. After the Kid President is chosen, they will help lead a Kids Action Club dedicated to completing the project with the help of library staff members. The $500 budget for the project comes from a donation by the Lawrence Public Library Friends & Foundation.

If he doesn’t win Kid President, Hendrix said he “would always be glad” to help the winner.

“Because if you don’t win, that doesn’t mean you can’t try your best to help,” he said.


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