Westchester Students Watch State Of The Union

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Mamaroneck High School seniors watch Tuesday night's State of the Union Address together in a classroom. Photo Credit: Chaya Babu

MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Students at Mamaroneck High School got together Tuesday night in a classroom to watch President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address at a viewing party organized by Advanced Placement government teacher Joe Liberti.

“I love teaching this class, and doing stuff like this really creates a sense of community among the four different sections,” Liberti said. “It’s the activities we do outside of class time that gets them engaged.”

There are 98 seniors in his four AP classes combined, and about 50 attended the viewing party, Liberti said. Some were in comfortable in their pajamas, and Liberti bought chips, chicken wings, popcorn and soda.

“I’ve been watching the address with my mom since I was 10, but I definitely knew more about what was going on this year,” said Bob Phillips, a senior who said he wished he could have voted in the 2012 election. He said he is interested politics and plans to major in education or political science in college.

“There were some issues that you knew were going to come up, like gun rights, because it’s hot topic right now, and, of course, the economy. But I didn’t know he was going to talk so much about clean energy,” Phillips said.

Another student, Yvette Pollack, said, “I come to these parties through this class because I get to meet with friends who have very different views on politics than I do and we get to discuss it.” The issue Pollack said she cares most about is equal pay for women and fair opportunities in the workplace.

Liberti, who has been teaching the class for four years, is passionate enough about the topic to take time to provide the seniors with enriching experiences. In October, he took two groups of students on separate weekends to Bethlehem and Allentown, Penn., to contribute to “Get Out The Vote” efforts. Another group of students took an earlier trip to New Hampshire to volunteer during the primaries.

Ella Dean mentioned the Pennsylvania trip as memorable. “This class has been really interactive,” she said. “We went to do canvassing for either Obama or [Republican candidate Mitt] Romney, which is a really cool way to experience the political process and do grassroots kind of work.”

Dean said she was looking forward to hearing about gun control, because it’s an important issue. “One reason I enjoy the class is because it’s so relevant and you can apply it to what’s going on in the world,” she said. “Watching this live is a great way to experience the currency of what we learn.”

Students got handouts, one with important dates and a worksheet to evaluate the president’s persuasiveness on various issues and to state whether they agreed with his stance. The other sheets were a bit more fun: BINGO cards with buzz words such as Jobs, Deficit, Israel and Nuclear Arms Reduction to cross off as they heard them.

As Obama wrapped up the speech and the audience on screen applauded, one student, Jake Silvestri, said to the group: “That was awesome.”

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