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South Buffalo Elementary students get hands-on lesson in presidential politics

| Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 12:33 a.m.
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Geno Roppolo, left, portraying Barack Obama, and Cole Furer, right, as Mitt Romney, take a question from 'newspaper reporter' Max Selinger during a presidential election assembly at South Buffalo Elementary School on Tuesday. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
South Buffalo Elementary School fifth-grader Ricky Hunter, 10, casts his ballot with fifth-grader Kennedy Christy, 10, serving as a judge of elections. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
South Buffalo Elementary School first-grader Ashley Arner, 6, left, holds a sign supporting her candidate during an Election Day program at the school on Nov. 6, 2012. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch

The excitement of Election Day was on full display Tuesday at South Buffalo Elementary School.

The school's fifth-grade class presented the rest of the school with an assembly dubbed “Who Will Rock the White House.”

An auditorium packed with students and parents were taken through the election process by students portraying candidates Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Joe Biden, Paul Ryan and their wives.

Likewise, each candidate had his own director of public relations and had to answer questions from a tough press corps during a debate.

“We did this in 2004 and 2008, too,” said teacher Renee Bogan, who along with colleague Jessica Berberich helped the students prepare for the assembly. “They do it all. We just offer them a little guidance.”

There were polling places setup in each classroom to enable the students to cast their ballots.

Bogan said the fifth-grade classes learn about the election process for a month before the election. Each student who portrayed a part in the assembly had to know their candidates, or significant other, inside out.

From where Jana Ryan went to college, to what Joe Biden's favorite animal is, the student actors knew it all.

“There's a lot of pressure on you, because everyone is watching you,” said Geno Roppolo, Obama's 10-year-old stand-in, minutes before he took the stage with the real life Obama campaign song “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours” by Stevie Wonder blaring through the auditorium. For Cole Furer, the student portraying Mitt Romney, the process of getting into character was tough.

“It took about two or three weeks,” said Furer, 10, dressed to the nines in a blue blazer. “I'm really excited.”

As the faux candidates took the stage, young students held up homemade signs signifying which candidate they supported.

Max Sellinger, who portrayed a Valley News Dispatch reporter, said the process was a thrill.

“It was a lot of fun,” the 10-year-old said after he asked the candidates a question about Social Security.

Melissa Hower, whose daughter Sophia portrayed Jill Biden, said the assembly was a great experience for the students.

“Ever since she started to research her character, my daughter has had a lot of interest in the election,” she said. “My husband and I have let her find her own way through the research she's had to do.

“I think the teachers and staff did such a great job putting this together.”

As for the all important mock election results, the real life Mitt Romney might want to stop by South Buffalo to thank his supporters. He won the student vote 234-86.

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer.

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