Representatives from Starkville High School's Promote the Vote program met with Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman in his Capitol Office prior to receiving the Model Promote the Vote School Program award for the state of Mississippi. Front left to right: Jenny Heckel, Claire Vickers, Angela White and Rex Ames. Back left to right: Ginger Tedder, Adam Bracy, Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman, Dheer Patel and Holly Travis. (Submitted Photo)
Rex Ames believes in the value of the electoral college.
Ames, a senior at Starkville High School, was a finalist in Mississippi's Promote the Vote Oratory Competition in Jackson in November. The question at the center of the debate was whether or not the Electoral College should continue or be abolished, and Ames chose the "pro" side.
"I see it as a safeguard of the American voters," Ames said. "If we have to send senators and congressmen to Washington (to make other decisions), why can't we do that when we're electing the highest leader in America?"
For this and other efforts at SHS, Ames received Mississippi Promote the Vote's UNO Award, and SHS was named Model Promote the Vote School Program for the state of Mississippi March 1 in Jackson.
SHS economics teacher Ginger Tedder said she nominated Ames, SHS Promote the Vote student coordinator, for the UNO Award. Ames did not even know he had been nominated when he won the award, she said, but she knew he had gone above and beyond his duties, illustrating 2012's Promote the Vote theme, "The Power of One."
"He definitely used his 'Power of One' to excite students about politics and civics," Tedder said. "(I was also) very proud of the student committee that organized all the events. They all worked together to inform students on the voting process."
SHS's Promote the Vote School Program included hosting Congressman Gregg Harper for the program's kickoff, a student debate on presidential campaign platforms, a mock election, organizing a voter registration drive and bringing voting machines to Starkville High School to demonstrate their use to students. Tedder said the student committee registered more than 50 SHS seniors and other adults on campus, and more than 600 students cast ballots in the mock election.
"That's about half our student body," Tedder said. "I attribute a lot of that success to the partnership with the circuit clerk's office ... which brought the voting booths to demonstrate."
Collaboration with the community was one of the criteria the statewide Promote the Vote program looked at when choosing a model program, Tedder said, along with informational value, creativity, and student body involvement. As a reward for their hard work, she said, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann met privately with the students, who also visited the governor's office.
Ames said he was honored to receive the UNO Award, and he relished the chance to inform other students about candidates and the importance of voting.
"It allowed me to show other students the passion and joy I have for politics," Ames said.
Ames hopes to become an elected official himself one day, he said, because while he does not plan to serve in the military, he sees public office as another avenue for serving his country.
"I feel like it's my duty to give back through this process," Ames said. "I don't want (a political office) because I want to have power. I want it because I want to make a better future for my children, and for my children's children."