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Sophomore Elections: More Than A Popularity Contest

As part of our special Barnegat High School project, we bring you a look into the workings of high school democracy.

It's just after 12:30 p.m. Students have settled into their Period 4 classes when Principal Joe Saxton begins the announcement:

"Teachers with sophomore classes please bring your classes to the auditorium. If you have just a few sophomores in your class, please send them by themselves."

Outside the auditorium doors, Kevin Aquilano, president of the 2012 senior class, and other senior class officers are waiting. In their hands are ballots for the election of officers for next year's junior class. P.J. Pansini keeps up a running stream of jokes to remind the students that the assembly is for soon-to-be juniors only.

"If you just got your permit, you're might be a junior," Pansini says, handing ballots to passing students. "If you're a junior next year and you know it, clap your hands."

"We don't do this for all the elections," Aquilano says. "But we have people running against each other, so we have speeches from the candidates and we vote here."

Of the four junior class officer positions, two — vice president and secretary — are contested. The executive officers of the student government sit on the stage, waiting to introduce the candidates, who sit on the other side. After a few remarks from Saxton, the speeches begin.

Morgan Mitchell, the executive president of the Student Council, reminds the students the elections are not supposed to be a popularity contest, but a vote based on who they believe will do the best job for them next year.

She also reminds the students that the unopposed officers need a majority of the vote to be returned to office, so students need to vote for them regardless.

Keith Lee, who is running unopposed for president, receives an enthusiastic response from his classmates. Matt Badro and Carissa Shearer, both vying for vice president, are up next. Badro, who is running for re-election, focuses on his availability and eagerness to do whatever is needed to raise funds for the class, while Shearer notes her participation in this year's junior prom as a sophomore gave her some insight for next year's junior prom. Mark Magoon is running unopposed for treasurer.

Then it is time to hear from the candidates for secretary. Emily Maina, seeking re-election, notes that she plays just one sport and is committed to what needs to be done for the class, as well as emphasizing her experience. Then Lee reads the speech written by Olivia Hogan, who Lee says is away on vacation. Hogan's speech notes that she spent a year at the Performing Arts Academy (part of the Ocean County Vocational School system) but came back to Barnegat to be a part of things. Her speech emphasizes that she wanted to create a positive, fun and exciting environment for junior year.

The ballots are collected as the students file out of the auditorium, and the candidates buzz around, hoping to get the results.

"You have to go back to class," Aquilano tells them. "You can't be around while they count."

As the day winds down, and students prepare for after school -— whether they are gearing up for the state playoff baseball game set for that afternoon, heading to a club meeting or simply going home — Saxton announces the results: Lee and Magoon are confirmed as president and treasurer, while Badro and Maina win re-election.

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