British pupils win a taste of US election fever

26th October 2012 at 01:00
They jump at the chance to join campaigners in Florida

It is billed as the most tightly contested presidential race in more than a decade, with both candidates, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, expected to slug it out day and night until a winner is declared.

As such it will be the experience of a lifetime for the handful of pupils from UK schools working alongside campaign staff in both Republican and Democrat camps during the crucial final days of the 2012 presidential election.

A dozen British teenagers were flown out this week to experience first-hand how US politics works in the swing state of Florida and to learn the art of campaigning in one of the world's most intriguing political systems.

The project, called Act Inspired US, was launched by the Transformation Trust and academy sponsor E-Act in a bid to give hard-working sixth-form students the chance to take part in the US election battle. The successful applicants were chosen after submitting a 500-word essay or three-minute film on why they are suitable candidates.

Imran Hussein, a Year 13 student from E-Act's Leeds West Academy, was among the 12 selected and will be campaigning on behalf of the Republicans, even though, he says, his politics stand at odds with the party he will be working for.

"I wouldn't say I am a Republican, and I certainly wouldn't say I agree with a lot of what Mitt Romney has said during the campaign so far, but I am definitely looking forward to it," Imran said. "If I lived over there I think I would be a Democrat and I would have to side with Obama.

"The race is very tight at the moment, Florida is a swing state so it will be really interesting to see how it works and it is all to play for - but I hope Obama wins."

The two teams will be in Florida for 10 days, cold-calling potential voters and knocking on doors in a bid to garner those extra votes that could make the difference between Mr Romney and President Obama taking their seat in the White House.

The students will then travel up to Washington DC for the final three days, where they will spend the crucial election night at either the Republican or Democratic headquarters.

Camilla Yahaya, a Year 11 student from Prendergast-Ladywell Fields College in Lewisham, South London, will be working with the Democratic Party, something she is particularly happy about because she "really believes" in their policies.

The 16-year-old already has experience working on the campaign trail after joining Ken Livingstone's team in his bid to become mayor of London earlier this year. However, the prospect of working to help Mr Obama retain his presidency was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"I think Obama will win. I know the race is quite close at the moment but I think the American people have faith in Obama. I don't think they relate to Mitt Romney," Camilla said.

"I think Romney is running for office just for the status of it. He doesn't want the presidency for the people. I haven't even thought what will happen if he wins - I genuinely believe Obama will win it," she added.

The programme's organisers, Transformation Trust, said that the trip will provide the students with an opportunity that few people their age will experience.

"The 12 young people that will become campaign interns in Florida are already setting a fantastic example for their peers," chief executive Amy Leonard said. "I am confident that the trip will spur them on to even greater achievements on their return."

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