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J.W. Leary Junior High students take part in voting process

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MASSENA - With election season in full swing, students were stumping for votes Thursday morning at J.W. Leary Junior High School.

Simon LaGarry and Michael Meddings were looking for votes for president, Octavia Viskovich and Spencer Beckstead both hoped to be elected vice president, Noah Manning and Danielle Eggleston were campaigning for secretary and Preston Benedict and Mathis LeBlanc made their case to become treasurer.

All of the candidates had an opportunity talk about their platform during a student assembly Thursday morning in the school’s gymnasium. Students then returned to their classrooms to cast their ballots.

Each student had his or her own reason for running for office. Mr. Benedict, for instance, said he wanted to make school “a better place for everyone” as he talked about his qualifications for the treasurer role.

“I’m organized and an excellent student in the classroom,” he said.

“I’m here to support the Student Council and make a difference in my school. I like to be involved,” Mr. LeBlanc said, noting that he also helps out with projects at the Massena Community Center.

“I’m creative, responsible and organized and I have ideas” that could be implemented at school, he said. “There is no I in team. We can only do this together as we the people.”

Mr. Manning told his fellow students that he was very organized, always completed his homework on time and was always on time for his classes. His campaign pledge was to get school water fountains fixed because he said some of them didn’t wor, and also work to procure a milk machine.

“I’m looking forward to working together with the rest of the Student Council to make a better school. It will require responsibility, a trait that I am familiar with. I want to get our voices and concerns heard,” Ms. Eggleston said, noting that she would work for more educational field trips.

In the race for vice president, Ms. Viskovich said she had been on the Student Council since fourth grade and had “experience dealing with student issues and concerns.”

She quoted Martin Luther King Jr., saying, “Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great,” something that applied to all J.W. Leary students as they worked together on issues such as bullying and being kind to other students.

Ms. Viskovich promised “hard work, dedication, loyalty, but above all, honesty.”

Mr. Beckstead said he also had Student Council experience as a fifth and sixth grader.

“I would know what the president was up to all the time,” he said. “I’m a very positive person. You can push me down a staircase, and I say I got down real fast.”

He promised to be accessible to students, as well as “safe, respectful and responsible.”

Mr. LaGarry said he heard numerous students talk about things they would like to see changed in school.

“I thought I could be their voice,” he said.

He said he would have more fundraisers and better dances and also work on the water fountain and milk machine issues.

Mr. LaGarry also said that, with the cost of equipment such as musical instruments, he would work to raise enough money to keep them maintained so the school would not have to buy new equipment.

“We need people for fundraisers and the best way to get them to come is if fundraisers are fun,” he said.

“I understand the importance of our Student Council to get things done for our student body,” Mr. Meddings said in his speech. “I recognize the importance of listening to students, then taking action to get things done.”

A three-year member of the Student Council, Mr. Meddings said he would work to expand the school store, including adding more variety to the items available for sale such as pens, pencils and J.W. Leary T-shirts and sweat shirts.

“That is one of my goals. I am your guy to get things done,” he said.

After all the campaign speeches were read and the ballots cast, the officers for the 2013-14 school year were Mr. LaGarry as president, Ms. Viskovich as vice president, Mr. Manning as secretary and Mr. LeBlanc as treasurer.

Student Council Advisor Anne C. Root said the school elections drew plenty of interest. Students had to fill out an application that was signed by the principal and teachers and also had to gather signatures from 25 students and three teachers on a petition.

She said 18 or 19 students threw their names in the ring for the primaries, and those students had an opportunity to use the school’s public address system last week to introduce themselves to their fellow classmates.

Following the primaries, the candidates were narrowed down to those who spoke during Thursday’s assembly.

Ms. Root said Student Council consists of one student representative from each homeroom and their alternate, along with the four student officers.

“Student Council has made some remarkable contributions to both local and school-related organizations because of fundraisers they have done in the past,” she said. “The Yankee candle fundraiser going on right now will help purchase a new camera for the yearbook and keep the cost of yearbooks reasonable, as well as contribute to projects our new council members vote to support.”

Among their other activities are the staging of five dances and assistance with the Boston trip, Leary Volunteers, Yearbook, Web Crew. The Student Council also makes community donations for the school and and is involved with school beautification, she said.

“So you can see we do a lot for our school and community,” Ms. Root noted.

Principal Jesse C. Coburn said this week’s elections could serve to prepare the students for their role as voters later in their life.

“Now you’re part of a community of about 470 students,” he said, noting they would be part of the more than 300 million voters at the national level when they became eligible to vote.

No matter what level the elections are at, they are important, according to Mr. Coburn.

“Even though you’re dealing with 470 students here, it is your building,” he said.

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