St. Louis School students took to the polls on Election Day - Catholic Courier

St. Louis School students took to the polls on Election Day

PITTSFORD — The big winner on Election Day was not an elephant or a donkey, according to Janine Scopa’s second-grade students.

It was a cheetah.

By a vote of 12 to 7, Cheetah beat out Westie the dog for the role of class mascot in the Nov. 4 mascot election in Scopa’s classroom at St. Louis School. Pink Ribbon Hopeful Wishes Teddy and Champ the Bear each picked up three votes.

The class vote was the culmination of weeks of learning about the electoral process, as students mirrored the U.S. presidential election with one of their own. They chose their class mascot from among the charitable-donation animals sold by Build-A-Bear Workshop.

For each Cheetah sold, Build-A-Bear Workshop will donate $1 to the World Wildlife Fund to protect endangered animals and their habitats. Westie’s sales support animal shelters and stray-pet rescue and rehabilitation organizations; Champ’s sales support various children’s health initiatives; and sales of the Pink Ribbon bear support breast-cancer education, research and support groups.

Students nominated four animals from Build-A-Bear’s inventory of donation animals, debated the merits of each animal’s causes, created campaign posters, filled out applications to register to vote, and cast ballots for one of the four stuffed animals. Scopa said as students debated each mascot’s merits, she told them to look at the issues, not appearances.

“They have to look past the cuteness, or what people say, and dig in deep to people’s hearts,” Scopa said.

After learning about the duties and qualifications of elected officials, the students agreed upon a set of both for their mascot. The mascot must wear a suit, fit into a backpack, accompany the class on field trips and travel home with one student each weekend. The host student will be expected to write about the mascot’s extracurricular adventures.

Scopa said her project’s goal was to help students understand the electoral process and relate to the national election. The students’ interest in elections was high, she said.

“They are very in tune to what’s going on,” Scopa observed.

Several weeks ago, a Monroe County Board of Elections official spoke to the class about the national election and conducted a pre-election straw poll in which a majority of students chose John McCain to be the winner.

On Election Day, the students were able to finally cast their mascot ballots, as they sported red, white and blue ribbons and munched on cookies in the shape of stars. In exit polling, several students said their love for animals played a role in their final decisions.

“I voted for Westie because I like that the money helps the animal shelter,” said Danielle Hartman, 7, who has a cat, two guinea pigs and a fish.

Matthew Kelly, 8, said he decided to vote for Cheetah because he is worried about endangered species.

“A lot of my favorite animals are dying, and my cat used to be like that until we took him to the vet,” Matthew said.

Though he preferred not to say which candidate he voted for, Quinn Strassburg, 8, said animal shelters are important to him, especially since he has a Labradoodle dog named Cosmo.

“I do not want animals to die,” he said.

Eight-year-old Eve Woloszuk had a very personal reason for supporting the Pink Ribbon teddy bear: Her mother is undergoing treatments for breast cancer. Scopa said Eve won over several classmates during the nomination process when she made her case for the pink-ribbon bear. Eve said her classmates have been supportive.

“They wanted to help me and my mom,” she said.

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