A Real-Life Civics Lesson


Several Synergy middle school students delved into local politics this week, asking carefully crafted questions of San Francisco mayoral candidate Mark Leno.

Sixth graders Ruby Orr and Simone Edwards, 7th graders Atessa Anoshiravani and Kate Gross, and 8th grader Niko Crawford attended a youth summit at Leno campaign headquarters in the Castro on Tuesday (May 8). Each prepared for the event by studying Leno’s website and the websites of his opponents, and writing out their questions in advance.

Simone was excited about the opportunity. “We know our voices have power and we want to be heard,” she said.

Ruby agreed. “We can’t vote yet, but we care about what happens in the city.”

Their questions were wide-ranging. For example, Niko asked about clean needles. “Do you have any plans for services, support for people who want to use drugs without catching any infectious diseases?”

Simone’s question focused on housing the homeless. “Even if they could get a home and get off the streets, how would you ensure that they don’t get evicted soon after that?”

The environment was a big topic for our kids. Atessa wanted to know how Leno would address the pollution created by cars and buses, including public transportation. Ruby asked how he would ensure that corporations don’t hurt the environment. Kate asked how he would pay for the city’s shift to renewable resources.

Kate also honed in on Leno’s priorities, wanting to know why clean streets were a priority, but not public transit. “Can you explain the reasoning behind your priorities?”

In fielding their questions, Leno noted more than once that their lines of inquiry were “thoughtful” and “smart.” He even poked fun at the Chronicle, joking that the kids were smarter than the reporters at the newspaper.

What did our middle schoolers think of Leno? They all agreed he was “nice” and they liked that he didn’t talk down to them. If there was a common criticism, it was that some of his answers lacked specifics.

The youth summit was sponsored by XYZA News, a newspaper for kids. The other students who attended came from Miraloma, Presidio Knolls, and Creative Arts Charter.

–By Cynthia Louie, Administrative Coordinator





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