Candidate Martin O'Malley sits, center, following by Haynes and Seaman, with other students from California. Photo courtesy of Daniel Adler.
With just a week to go until the Iowa Caucus, two Long Beach Poly High students can say they’ve done more than just watch the race from afar.
Amelia Haynes and Katie Seaman, both juniors in Daniel Adler’s AP Government class, won an essay contest put on by Mikva Challenge, a Chicago-based nonprofit geared toward making students active participants in the political process through elections and more.
Their prize? Venturing to the gloriously cold but geopolitically significant DesMoines, Iowa, to campaign for one of their top presidential candidate picks.
“Iowa was never on my first list,” said Seaman, laughing. “I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
Both students, born and raised in Long Beach, returned last week from the campaigning weekend, with a fresh perspective on the political process and plenty of memories in the snow, rubbing elbows with the country’s political elite.
“This program is wonderful,” said Adler. “They’re [putting kids] out in the community—that’s real learning.”
“There are a lot of differences there,” said Haynes. “I mean, every ad [on TV] is a political ad. That never happens here.”
All three participants—Haynes, Seaman and Adler, in a supervisory role—arrived Thursday evening in Iowa and made it to a Friday orientation, where they found out for whom they would be campaigning.
The Mikva Challenge called for each student to list the top three candidates they would like to work for, with each application. Both Haynes and Seaman chose Clinton, then Sanders. It was on the third candidate where they differed; Haynes chose Rubio, and Seaman chose Chris Christie, thinking if all else failed, he “might have good pizza” at his campaign headquarters.
Each student received her top pick: Clinton.
“It’s kind of hard to work for someone and knock on doors for someone you don’t really believe in; you’re not really being genuine,” said Haynes. Suffice to say, both students were excited by the selection results.
Though the day-to-day of the weekend wasn’t too exciting (mostly calling and door-knocking on democratic supporters’ doorsteps), being in the epicenter of the political world was thrilling in and of itself.
Throughout the weekend, the girls worked the campaign trail with other students, bundling up in the cold, sometimes seizing the opportunity to hail a warm car ride from Clinton campaign volunteers.
“Everybody was nice—they were all registered democrats,” said Haynes.
By night, they’d explore the campaign circuit, even attempting to jump in on a Donald Trump rally, something which was closed to them according to the students and Adler.
The doorman barred access to the rally, citing occupancy concerns, despite letting other, older individuals in. A belligerent man sat outside the door, shouting obscenities at the group, stating they were spies for the other campaigns. And the air just kept getting colder, while the group waited outside.
Adler said the individuals who gained entry could have been campaign workers, but the point was made: the students, all from either Chicago or Los Angeles, would not gain access to Trump’s rally.
Such experiences made the students that much more passionate for their selected candidate. Seaman hopes to attend UC Berkeley or UCLA, eventually obtaining a law degree and working in social justice and civil rights. Haynes, who describes herself as “very very liberal” and has two gay moms, hopes to study similar subjects back east. Her dream school would be Columbia or Georgetown, she said.
For now though, they’d like to participate in the political process to elect someone they believe in.
“I think this election is extremely important,” said Haynes. “The next president is very possibly going to select the next Supreme Court justice. It’s very important.”
“I’m very grateful I could participate [this past weekend],” said Seaman. “I’m excited to be selected. It’s always an honor to experience politics on the grassroots level.”
They hope surviving the negative 24 degrees of wind chill that weekend will be worth it, come February 1, or further down the road, when the race comes down to the final few candidates.
“I get pretty upset at [social] injustices,” said Haynes, who quipped that she would “move out of the country” if Trump wins the presidency. “Long Beach is such a diverse place. It’s so welcoming. It’s kind of eye-opening. The racial diversity and what we have here isn’t what it’s like in other places.”