Road to White House Passes Through Hoover High
Already a STEM stalwart and a perennial boys’ basketball powerhouse, Hoover High School is becoming something of a political hotbed, too.
The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses are only three weeks away. This morning U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is mounting a strong challenge to Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, paid a visit to Hoover to tap into the youthful energy that is driving his campaign and encourage students to get in the habit of civic participation as soon as they’re able. Anyone who will be 18 by Election Day in November is eligible to participate in the caucuses, a criterion that applies to most high school seniors.
Sanders’ appearance at Hoover materialized quickly in the last week when Noah Mitchell, a senior who volunteers for the Sanders campaign, approached principal Cindy Flesch seeking permission to extend an invitation to the candidate whose busy schedule had him back in Des Moines for a series of campaign events over the weekend. Flesch told him to go for it and this morning’s Q&A with students in the school auditorium was squeezed into an already jam-packed itinerary.
In a sense, the event was a bit of a victory lap for Sanders. He won resoundingly in the Iowa Youth Caucus on November 19th that he hopes was a harbinger of what’s in store on February 1. Hoover was the Polk County host site for the IYC which was co-sponsored by Iowa Democrats and Republicans as a pump-primer for getting soon-to-be rookie voters engaged in the process.
Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential contest means students, teachers and the school district are involved in a variety of ways. For example, Joseph Nydle teaches AP Government at Hoover (Mitchell is one of his students). Nydle, along with fellow DMPS teachers Canada Snyder at Central Academy and Adam Arthur at Lincoln High School, developed a curriculum called Iowa Caucus 101 that can be found on the website of the Iowa Secretary of State’s office and is a handy guide for teachers around the state to use in preparing students on the threshold of full citizenship.
The school district itself plays host to thousands of caucus goers on the night of February 1 as 45 DMPS schools will serve as meeting sites for Republicans and Democrats.
Sanders was enthusiastically introduced this morning by student leader Max Tensing. In lieu of his standard stump speech he prodded the audience for thoughts on topics including high youth unemployment, low voter turnout and burdensome college loan debt. After some initial reluctance to take the mic and pose questions to a man who would be president the crowd loosened and hands started popping up all over. Sanders asked a lot of questions too. “Does that make sense?” and “Do you think that’s fair?” and “Is this a serious problem?” were three he posed repeatedly.
Sanders introduced his wife Jane to the crowd before the free-flowing discussion got started. When the spirited hour was up and she was waiting for her husband in the wings Jane Sanders was asked if Bernie is getting his rest as the run-up to the caucuses enters its final frantic stretch. His voice at times sounded worn and torn.
“Ha!” she laughed immediately. “He won’t rest until November.”
And then they were off, back on a long, hard campaign trail that wound through the Home of the Huskies on its way to an uncertain destination.