Harker students host San Jose Mayoral Campaign in collaboration with Yerba Buena High School


Provided by Kris Estrada

Harker seniors Sara Bhowmick, KJ Williams and Kris Estrada pose with San Jose mayoral candidate Matt Mahan. Harker and Yerba Buena High School students hosted a youth campaign forum for the mayors on Oct. 25.

by Sidak Sanghari, Humans of Harker Profiler

Harker and Yerba Buena High School students hosted representatives of San Jose mayoral candidates Cindy Chavez and Matt Mahan’s political team in a youth campaign forum at the Cambrian Branch Library on Oct. 25. 

Sahngwie Yim (10), Valerie Li (10), KJ Williams (12), Kris Estrada (12) and Sara Bhowmick (12), who conducted the event with Yerba Buena students, worked in public relations (PR) and moderation teams to organize and prepare for the forum. Middle school history teachers Ramsay Westgate and Keith Hirota and upper school history teacher Carol Green also attended and helped plan the event. 

In the days leading up to the forum, students on the PR team made flyers to post on social media to promote the event, reached out to schools in the surrounding area and contacted Bay Area news sources like the San Jose Mercury News to raise interest. Moderators prepared questions to ask the candidates during the forum, which were pre-approved by the separate parties. 

Jamie Livingston represented former San Jose vice mayor and current member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Cindy Chavez, and San Jose District 10 Council Member and mayoral candidate Matt Mahan attended the event in person. Both spoke with the moderators and answered questions from students.

Sahngwie, who was on the PR team, appreciates being able to see the background of planning an event with political representatives. 

“[I enjoyed] being involved in the process of organizing an event for the elections and being involved in a part of the organization from the back end, where normally we would see it from the front end… but this time, I was on the other side, helping organize it,” Sahngwie said. “I think that it was really cool to collaborate with another school and help put the event together.”

She also sees value in educating students about politics, especially local events and campaigns that affect citizens in their daily lives.

“Even though we can’t vote, it’s important to still be informed about everything that’s going on in the world, especially an election that’s more local than the national presidential elections. [These events] allow for more exposure to high school students [which] means that people can learn from not only planning the event but also attending and getting exposure to the bigger politics of the real adult world.”

San Jose citizens will elect their new mayor during midterm elections on Nov. 8. Californians can vote in person, or use a mail-in ballot and drop it off in an official ballot box by 8 p.m. on Nov. 8.

Westgate wants to encourage students to take on their responsibility as a citizen of their city and hopes to continue working on connecting them with opportunities to talk to local politicians, regardless of whether they can vote or not. 

“[It’s important to] recognize the city in which we’re based in, and the notion that local government is the most easily reached,” Westgate said. “That’s a great place to cut your teeth if you’re interested in politics, but even if you’re not going to go further than that, [it’s important to recognize] the notion that you have an opportunity to be engaged and work with students that know that they have things to teach you just as much as you teach them.”