Six Marlborough sophomores will be among a group of over 20 student journalists flying to Iowa to cover the Feb. 3 Democratic caucuses through KidUnity’s Iowa Presidential Caucuses Program. The itinerary includes opportunities for interactions with candidates and reporters, while also preparing students to document their experiences through journalistic articles and multimedia projects.
KidUnity, co-founded by David Snow and former substitute history and social sciences instructor Dr. Peter Sheehy, is a non-profit geared towards providing youth with accessible opportunities for civic engagement. Sheehy and Snow will be supervising the program and accompanying the students to Iowa.
History and Social Sciences instructor Dr. Daniel Lynch will also be chaperoning the program, in addition to six other historians, journalists and educators. The group will fly to Iowa on Saturday, Feb. 1, and return on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
“It’s kind of like being at a rock concert or sporting event, but it’s politics,” Sheehy said.
The Iowa Presidential Caucuses Program was first initiated during the 2016 election, when KidUnity traveled to Iowa with a group of 6th graders from Los Angeles, some of whom are returning this year as sophomores. In the past, students have met journalists such as Dana Bash of CNN and Nicolle Wallace of MSNBC, in addition to meeting the publisher and receiving a tour of the Des Moines Register. They even conducted an interview with Senator Bernie Sanders and attended his campaign’s celebration. Sheehy said he hopes to solidify the students’ involvement in government and policy over the course of the trip.
“Whether it’s just talking to the average Iowans, or getting a chance encounter with a top candidate and talking with reporters, it’s such an exciting atmosphere, and I think to be a part of it will hook them,” Sheehy said. “[Journalism] gives [students] an angle of entry, and it empowers them, too. They have the right to ask adults hard questions… and in this moment, free press is so vital to our survival as a country.”
Lucy ‘22 will be attending the caucuses to produce an informational mini-documentary aimed towards educating millennials and Gen Z-ers on the significance of the Iowa caucuses. She will also be writing an article for New York Magazine’s The Cut. Other Marlborough attendees have arranged to publish in a variety of news outlets, including Seventeen, Teen Vogue and NPR.
Emma ‘22 is similarly interested in reaching a younger audience. She said she intends to publish an easily-understandable guide to the candidates’ positions on regime change wars in the Middle East because of her interest in international relations. Emma, who is working to get her article published on Insider, said she is approaching each of the candidates with an open mind.
“I’m trying to stay as neutral as possible because that’s how you can write a good report,” she said. “I want to be able to give unbiased information, so I’m purposefully not letting myself get attached to one candidate.”
Lucy said she agrees that there’s a lot to be learned from exploring new perspectives, especially when given the chance to visit a swing state.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place as far out of my political comfort zone as Iowa,” Lucy said. “It would be so cool to be able to show Marlborough students that there’s more opinions out there than they may think.”
In November, the cohort began meeting monthly to update Sheehy and Snow on their project ideas and to meet students from other participating high schools, including Brentwood School, Harvard-Westlake School, Loyola High School, Archer School for Girls and Windward School. Sheehy said he hopes the students will be inspired to share their projects and experiences with the Marlborough community following the trip.
According to History and Social Sciences Department Head Jonathon Allen, a committee of five anonymous educators, including Marlborough faculty, accepted Marlborough students to the program based on the strength of two personal essays which were read without knowing the identity of the students. The program is hosting twice as many Marlborough students as originally planned due to the high quality of the applicant pool.
Program participents look forward to supplementing their U.S. history curriculums with what they learn at the caucuses.
“It’s going to be exciting and scary but, most of all, informative,” Lucy said.