Fairview High School — a voter registration feat

Secretary of State Wayne Williams, third from left, with Fairview High School students and teachers. (Boulder Valley School District photo)

Secretary Wayne Williams visited Fairview High School in Boulder on Friday to recognize  the efforts in getting their peers registered to vote by presenting students with the Eliza Pickrell Routt award.

Thanks to the work of more than two dozen students and one dedicated social studies teacher, a whopping 90 percent of eligible seniors are registered to vote at Fairview. Seniors Henry Magowan, Ayesha Rawal and Edden Rosenberg and two freshmen, Sophia Murray and Elyana Steinberg, along with 25 freshman volunteers, visited classrooms, entered data and carried out the logistics of the project.

Aaron Hendrikson, a social studies teacher, was approached by the Fairview Young Democrats club with the belief that “we need to do a better job engaging young citizens in our democracy,” the students told him. “For a variety of reasons, we currently have a politics that is dominated by older voters and their priorities and as a consequence, younger Americans often don’t see themselves represented in government.”

Secretary Wayne Williams congratulates students at the Fairview High School library. (Boulder Valley School District photo)

Their motto throughout this project was a quote from Margaret Mead, a prominent American anthropologist, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, dedicated citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Williams is a huge fan of the Routt award program because he got involved in politics in high school in Virginia. He said the town had been controlled by the same faction for decades and hadn’t progressed, so he and some fellow students got together and stood outside polling places and handed out literature. A new group of people were voted into office, and Williams remained politically active from then on. It’s a story Williams often tells at events with high school students.

Hendrikson said that to be successful in a school as big as Fairview, they had to invent a new method for systematically targeting students and tracking their progress throughout. They ended up creating a detailed “how to” guide, outlining the specific steps they took to achieve a 90 percent rate.

They have shared this guide with other schools in the state and are hopeful that other schools will carry on improving their method and turning out new voters.

It was a huge undertaking for a school as large as Fairview. The student body is just over 2,200 students, with 540 seniors.

They also have plans to sit down with state legislators this summer to see if there are legislative changes that could streamline youth voter registration. Their view is that “because the law allows 16-year-olds to pre-register, schools must become the central voter registration institutions in our state,” Hendrikson said.

As for next year? 65 percent of the junior class is already registered.

Check out the guide here.