November 6, 2012
Harlem Prep Middle School is one of 32 charter schools housed in public space that the Department of Education allowed to stay open today, while its own schools are closed in honor of Election Day.
In between classes, students from the school — part of the Democracy Prep network of charter schools — are spending the day reminding the residents of Harlem to exercise their right to vote.
Harlem Prep students staked out First Avenue between 100th and 106th Street today while five other groups of Democracy Prep students canvassed Harlem all the way up to 145th Street.
The get-out-the-vote activities reflect the network’s emphasis on civics. Last month, Democracy Prep students also starred in a music video that exhorted viewers to “Vote for Somebody.”
“I can’t vote but you can!” Mykev, a sixth-grader at Harlem Prep, eagerly chanted to those passing by. Some people barely broke their stride but others said they appreciated the students’ efforts and shared in their enthusiasm.
Since its founding six years ago, Democracy Prep students have helped nearly 5,000 citizens in Harlem register to vote, according to the network.
Katie Duffy, chief operating officer at Democracy Prep, said she was especially excited that some of the students who participated in the first “I Can’t Vote, But You Can” campaign six years ago, are now themselves old enough to vote. Three of them were certified as poll workers this year, according to the network.
Harlem Prep students had some ideas of political issues that the presidential candidates needed to address. Several of them mentioned education, but at least one student was thinking about problems he might encounter in the future.
“The unemployment rate is really high,” said sixth-grader Mike.
Most of the students at Harlem Prep Elementary School seemed to favor Obama, chanting the president’s name on the street along with neighborhood residents. But teachers quickly reminded the students to remain nonpartisan.
“It’s not our choice, it’s theirs,” sixth-grader Mykev reminded his classmates.