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Eighth-Graders At Hartford's Naylor School Recruiting Voters

HARTFORD

JODIE MOZDZER

October 15, 2008

It's hard for visitors at Naylor School on Franklin Avenue in Hartford to forget the state's deadline to register to vote.

The students in Tim Clemens' eighth-grade civics class remind anyone who comes within a block of the school.

The students have made it their mission to sign up as many neighborhood adults as possible. That means walking the sidewalk outside the school at 8 a.m. and again at 3 p.m. each day, and sitting at a table in the lobby of the school to greet anyone who comes in throughout the day.

"Have you registered to vote yet?" Reshma Ramrup asked a visitor Tuesday afternoon.

If the answer is no, the next question is "Why not?"

Reshma, Vincent O'Brien, Ashlee Robinson and Kiante Cooper said that as part of their class they've been evaluating the presidential election issues and are ready to talk to visitors about the candidates. They also have a list of reasons that people should sign up.

"If they say no, we say to them to do it for the sake of their kids because their [children's] future is in their hands," Vincent said.

Clemens said the effort is part of a broader school project in which students try to make changes in the community.

"We want our kids to be active citizens not just with politics, but with the economy or helping in any way they can in the community," Clemens said.

Naylor is in the city's 14th voting district, where only 1,034 of 2,375 registered voters went to the polls in 2006. The students want to do two things: increase the number of registered voters in the district and get more of them to vote.Although presidential elections generally draw more people to the polls, Clemens said he intends to have his students track the voter turnout for the community surrounding Naylor over several years. The first step is getting residents to sign up.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the students had signed up 85 people. The students collect the registration forms and send them to the registrar of voters in that person's hometown. The deadline for mailed submissions is Monday, but people who register in person at the registrar of voters office have until Oct. 28.

"At first, I didn't realize how many people would do it," Ashlee said. "But as we went through it, I realized it would be big."

Today, about 50 of Clemens' students will be at Central Connecticut State University, which is a partner school with Naylor, to sign up college students there.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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