Cypress Woods High School Principal Gary Kinninger (gray top holding frame) joins seniors who voted during the CFISD Bond Election throughout the day on April 23 at Juergen’s Hall. Organized by Cypress Woods government teacher Leah Stephanow, 107 seniors exercised their right to vote. (Photo by Mark Loera, Cypress Woods HS)
Cypress Woods High School Principal Gary Kinninger (gray top holding frame) joins seniors who voted during the CFISD Bond Election throughout the day on April 23 at Juergen’s Hall. Organized by Cypress Woods government teacher Leah Stephanow, 107 seniors exercised their right to vote. (Photo by Mark Loera, Cypress Woods HS)
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By Daphne Tett, Cypress Woods HS via CFISD Communications

CYPRESS TEXAS — Cypress Woods High School seniors continued what has quickly become a tradition at the campus, joining together in an organized effort to exercise their right to vote and doing so for the CFISD Bond Election.

Transported by bus on April 23 to nearby Juergen’s Hall, 107 seniors made the trip during their government or economics classes during early voting. The trip was organized by government teacher Leah Stephanow, who also put together similar voting events for Cypress Woods students voting for the first time during elections in 2016 and 2018.

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Cypress Woods High School senior Kerri Makatura (left) and Jordan Martin were among the more than 100 seniors who voted during the CFISD Bond Election during an organized field trip to Juergen’s Hall. Participating seniors went to vote April 23 during their government or economics classes. (Photo by Mark Loera, Cypress Woods HS)

“You could see the excitement,” Stephanow said. “They were excited to be able to go vote for the first time.”

Students are given the option to participate, so groups varied from roughly 15 students in one class period to more than 30 during another.

A passionate advocate for civic participation, Stephanow wanted a way to encourage student participation in American democracy and government at local and national levels.

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Cypress Woods High School senior Will Potter (left) and Jack Freeman were among the more than 100 seniors who voted during the CFISD Bond Election during an organized field trip to Juergen’s Hall. Participating seniors went to vote April 23 during their government or economics classes. (Photo by Mark Loera, Cypress Woods HS)

“I didn’t know about any elections coming up until Ms. Stephanow reminded us,” said senior Taylor Hilgar, who cast her first-ever vote in the Bond Election. “This field trip was a good idea. It is everyone’s responsibility to have a say in any sort of vote, big or small. I was proud to vote. I saved my sticker, put in on my wallet and added [a picture] to my [Snapchat] story.”

Others schools have also provided similar opportunities for seniors, with many voting for the first time. Voting field trips were organized at Cypress Woods and Langham Creek high schools in 2016 before the general election. Two years later, Cypress Falls and Cypress Woods seniors participated in voting trips prior to the midterm elections.

Stephanow helped lead teaching the election process and the importance of voting in government and economics classes.

“In government class, when we’re teaching the election process, we also showed the students the video about how the E-Slate voting machine works,” Stephanow said of the electronic voting machine used in Texas for elections for roughly 20 years. “We have the League of Women Voters come in to register students each semester, and this semester, all the government and economics teachers went over the bond issue with the students.”

There are some logistical issues, the biggest simply being students returning parent permission slips to actually take the trip. But Stephanow and her fellow teachers are already looking ahead to elections down the road, including the Texas constitutional amendment and presidential primary elections.

“I think it’s important that young people understand that government affects their daily lives,” Stephanow said. “We are a participatory democracy, and they have the right to have their voices heard.”

Senior Caleb Green, voting in his first election, said he was proud to cast a vote.

“When we first got there, I felt kind of nervous because I had never done that before,” he said. “But I felt a sense of pride doing it, voting for something impacting my district.”

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