8th-grade Indy student to attend final presidential debate after winning essay contest
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– A local eighth-grade student is going to experience the presidential election first hand. Next week, she will travel to the third and final debate in Las Vegas.
Jade Thomas, 13, won an essay contest through PBS 50 for 50. She is one of just two winners across the nation. The other winner is 17-year-old Zhengdong Wang from Chandler, Arizona.
Andrea Neal, Thomas’ history teacher at St. Richard’s Episcopal School, gave her class an assignment to write a letter to any elected official or candidate. Jade wrote to the presidential candidates about the wage gap, and how it’s affected her single mother.
“My own mother is a single mom. She’s been in the work force for longer than she’s been around, and she knows how the wage gap works,” Thomas told CBS4. “I don’t think that’s right. I never really thought it was.”
She said she wishes the candidates would also speak to children in her age group who may vote in the next election.
“I want them to talk about kids that are my age 13, 14 ,15– the ones who are going to vote in the next election and are going to decide on these issues,” she said.
She said she’s excited for this opportunity.
“It’s that same feeling when you realize you’re going to see history right before your eyes. This could be the debate that changes our country. And I’m just really excited to be a part of that,” said Thomas. “I’m really going to look forward to just remembering the candidates when they were candidates, and seeing whoever wins when they become inaugurated and I’m just excited to see which one that will be, and to feel that mystery in the room.”
Neal said she was ecstatic to hear her student won the contest.
“I couldn’t believe it! We had this assignment to write letters to elected officials or candidates. The contest was kind of an afterthought,” she said. “I was just stunned, really thrilled for her!”
Neal also commented on how this year’s language in the debates has been a bit more aggressive than some might expect.
“This is not new, personal attacks have been happening since we had a two party system,” she said. “So they’re prepared for that and they understand it.”
We also asked her how she discusses some of the more “adult” topics that have come up recently with students.
“We talk about how this is not the way we want civil discourse to be,” said Neal. “As they enter the political arena, they’re going to commit – I think – to engaging at a higher level. Speaking with people with whom they disagree civilly, politely. Not using labels like ‘crooked so-and-so.'”
She’s encouraging all the students to watch debate Wednesday night and to watch for Thomas’ comments on Twitter under the hash tag #PBSEdu.