Elected officials met with Coronado High School students Wednesday in the hope of inspiring the next generation of politically active women.
About 80 students from the Scottsdale school participated in “Running and Winning,” a program designed to interest girls in politics through talking with women in office.
“If they saw politics as a career goal, something to aspire to, maybe we would see them running for office earlier in life, when they had a longer career (ahead of them),” said Beverly J. Weiss, one of the coordinators.
This is the first time the event was held in the Valley, although the group plans to expand it in the future, Weiss said.
It was staged by the Scottsdale and Phoenix branches of the American Association of University Women, the AAUW’s Educational Foundation and the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Phoenix.
The students spent their morning interviewing mayors, state legislators and school board members in small groups. They discussed topics ranging from the lawmaking process to campaigning to balancing a personal life with political office.
In the afternoon, the students formed political action committees. Each group came up with a position, speech and slogan related to different immigration issues that they shared with the whole group.
Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross said she wished a similar program had been around when she was in school. She was glad to see so many girls interested in politics. It was important to encourage that interest because women bring different strengths to the table than men, often working as consensus builders in government, she added.
And while women made gains in last week’s election, there’s still work to do, Manross said.
“I was telling (the girls) it’s such an improvement that we have 16 (female) senators. But we still have 34 to go until we get 50 percent,” Manross said.
Allison Berger, 17, said she thought it was important to get more women elected because they brought different perspectives than men.
“Men have been holding political offices since the beginning of time, basically,” Berger said.
Shelbi Thomas, a junior, said the event opened her eyes to how time-consuming it was to hold office — certainly more so than her student council activities.
“I don’t know if I could put my family second,” said Thomas, 16.
All the same, she said, seeing the women’s passion for different issues excited her to think about seeking some sort of office — maybe something involving schools.
But whether they decide to run for office or not, some of the girls said they were ready to get politically active.
“I’m really excited to turn 18 and vote,” said Tesla Latham, 16. “I know it sounds corny, but I’m really excited.”