Eagle Co. teens ready to vote for first time | VailDaily.com

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Eagle Co. teens ready to vote for first time

Theo Stroomer/Vail DailyCorrina Martinez, right, and Cynthia Terrazas are learning about the voting process and presidential elections in their government class at Red Canyon High School.

EAGLE ” Bryan Carrillo, 17, will vote for the first time on November 4, 2008. He’ll choose Barack Obama for president.

Carrillo’s parents own a towing company, and his family’s livelihood is being heavily impacted by the cost of oil, high gas prices and a down economy. Carrillo thinks Obama will do a better job pulling the country away from oil and out of an economic hole than his Republican rival, John McCain.

“All that diesel is so expensive now ” it’s not as profitable as it used to be for my family,” Carrillo said. “Our economy is most important now ” it scares me that we could be seeing a new Great Depression.”

Not too long ago though, issues like the economy and gas prices seemed important to Carrillo, but there’s a certain amount of detachment when you have no say in what happens. Now, faced with the responsibility of voting, Carrillo, like leagues of young voters, feels the weight and excitement of that big decision hanging over him.

He’s having to define aloud for the first time what’s most important to him, and what that means when choosing the next leader of the United States.

“I’ve actually looked everything up I could about McCain and Obama ” I’ve done the research, and I know the issues,” Carrillo said. “We had to sit back and watch last time. Now we can vote.”

So, how does a first-time voter come to their decision? How are their views shaped? How do they develop priorities?

Political views, it seems, start in the home. Ashley Weaver, a government teacher at Eagle Valley High School, says by hearing students talk, you can sometimes tell how their parents think as well.

The good thing about school though ” it forces the students to challenge their beliefs, she says.

They’ll be confronted by other students with radically different points of view. They’ll do research and read news reports. They’ll be tested on history and government and, at the very least, emerge with a better idea of how the whole process works.

The teacher is there to referee and balance the information ” Weaver says it’s important to be unbiased, and make sure to present both sides of everything.

“As they go to class, they’ll be interacting with different ideas ” they’ll be challenged to deal with that and examine new ideas,” Weaver said.

Students at Red Canyon High School started from scratch this year. Government teacher Tom Gladitsch is dedicating the entire first term to studying the entire election process and showing students how the electoral college works, what polls mean, what the Constitution says and the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

More than showing them the basics though ” he wants them to be engaged, whether they’re old enough to vote or not. His first order of business was asking the students, “What’s most important to you?”

That, they seem to know. Here’s a quick sampling: “Iraq … gay marriage … Iraq … abortion … war … war … gun control … marijuana … immigration … oil … abortion.”

Finding the candidate though that best aligns with their values took some extra work. They spent hours on the Internet researching McCain and Obama, and spent a good amount of time on votehelp.org, which lets you take a long, detailed questionnaire and compares your views to those of the candidates.

“We’ve identified where their values are similar and different from each of the candidates, and which of those issues are most important to them,” Gladitsch said.

Corrina Martinez, 18, says issues like Iraq, health care and abortion rights are important to her. She’ll be voting for Obama.

“I wasn’t really paying attention before ” now I’m seeing I can take some control I didn’t have the last time,” Martinez said. “I’m a U.S. citizen, and I can let my voice be heard.”

Beth Hall, another Red Canyon student, said she is a Republican, but will be voting for Obama. She prefers his stance on the Iraq war ” a major withdrawal of U.S. troops. Not only will Hall be voting, but she’s also signed up to be an election judge.

Red Canyon’s Ron Ludenburger is a big McCain supporter, like most of his family. He believes McCain better represents the “everyman,” would better protect his right to own a gun, and has a better policy on the Iraq war.

“It would cause havoc if you take all the troops out now,” Ludenburger said. “Most of the stuff Obama wants to do doesn’t set with me.”

Red Canyon student Damien Nichols supports Obama in most areas, but found that he is willing to give up civil liberties if it protects the country ” a view point he’s more in line with John McCain on, he said.

The economy and education are most important to Kelsey Foster, a student at Eagle Valley High School who will vote for the first time this election.

“We’re at the point where we’re about to go to college, and our parents are paying for it,” Foster said. “It’s tough to see them struggle through it.”

Foster might be an Obama supporter, but like many of her classmates, is also a skeptic. Foster liked hearing Obama talk about investing in renewable energy in his convention speech, but worries about how he’ll pay for it.

“You can’t get your hopes up all the way for that person,” Foster said.