Fort Gordon's Youth Challenge Academy gets cadets out to vote for the first time

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

News 12 This Morning / Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Election Day is just a week away and thousands have already cast their ballots for early voting. One group came out to vote for the very first time. Fort Gordon's Youth Challenge Academy brought 45 cadets to the Board of Elections to vote for the very first time.

The cadets, most just 18 years old, have spent the past five weeks learning about the voting process. Now, for the first time, they were able to exercise their right to vote.

"It was first time experience and I really liked it," said Cadet Joliana Clark.

"I was nervous," added Cadet Ciara Thomas.

They are all members of Fort Gordon's Youth Challenge Academy, a program that works with "at risk" teens.

"We have several that just needed the discipline because they realized they weren't as disciplined as they needed to be to fulfill the dreams they had for themselves," said lead teacher Chandra Bynes.

These cadets are six weeks in to a 22-week program.

"In that time period they've gone through acclamation phase, which is to get them geared and use to the way in which we do things," Bynes said. "They start their academic classes as well."

Classes that include social studies lessons on government, citizenship and voting.

"It's huge because, for many of them, they had no idea about what it meant to vote," explained Bynes. "They've heard people talk about voting, but they never had an idea about what it meant, the significance of voting and what an impact their vote has on society at large."

"We have that freedom and that power to go out and chose who we want to make our decisions for us," added Cadet Robert Mcaleer.

Over the past few weeks, the teachers registered each cadet to vote, something they say many might not have done if they weren't a part of the program.

"I don't think the 45 we brought would have," Bynes said. "Maybe out of the 45, maybe three or four, and that's just because of the questions I received in the process of registering them to vote. I just don't think that they would have."

Just one more step in getting more people out to the polls.

"No matter who you choose, it doesn't really matter. Every vote counts," Mcaleer said.

They also learned a little about each candidate and what they stand for. They say one of the main issues for them was the economy and who will be able to make things better for their future.

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