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[LOGO] League of Women Voters
of Camden County

A non-partisan organization, promoting political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government.

 


OVERVIEW
The Running & Winning Workshop

The League of Women Voters of Camden County New Jersey has conducted the Running & Winning Workshop once per school year since March, 2000. (One year we did the event twice). After some gaps, the program began again with a very successful run in Pennsauken High School in 2019. We started this project because we heard many high school girls declare their complete distaste for politics and thought this an alarming prospect for the future. We wanted to try to change their attitudes, so that eventually many more women will run and win public office. We ordered the workbooks and video previously developed by the League of Women Voters of the U.S. Education Fund for a workshop called "Running & Winning: Getting Started" and developed ours from it. This manual includes an outline of the steps involved in holding the workshop and samples of our letters and materials.

Goals

Our long term goal is to increase the number of women running for, and winning, office. Our short term goal is to change girls' attitudes about politics and their leadership capabilities. We introduce them to female politicians who share their experiences in public life, and we give them the opportunity to network, discuss issues and take a stand on them, work on a mock campaign, and speak in public.

Program Development

For the first three years, we recruited high school junior girls (and some seniors) from all public, private, and parochial schools in Camden County and held it at a college on Saturday in March (aiming to miss religious holidays and SAT days). After several years of exerting more work recruiting than we thought we could sustain, we decided to hold it on a school day and found a high school that was willing to host students from a few other schools. We shortened the program to fit the school schedule (8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. instead of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and now find this arrangement much more workable.

Because we are a county League, we always invite all female elected officials in the county, from Commissioner or Councilwoman up through the highest office-for us State Assemblywoman-to participate. School board members and appointed officials could also be enlisted. The first year we had 42 girls and 17 officials attending, the second year 17 officials and 60 girls, the third 15 officials and 35 girls. For the years that we have held it at a school (a different one each year) on a weekday, we have had between 60 and 70 girls attend. The number of officials who could attend declined slightly at first, but we had our highest attendance yet in 2005.

Workshop Content

The workshop has two main parts:

  1. Interviews: small groups of girls interview one official per table, using our suggested questions. The official then moves to another table and another interview.

  2. Campaign exercise: Each of four girls per group (table) assumes a designated campaign role. They discuss and choose their position on an issue (for which we have provided factual information), write a 1 minute campaign speech and make a poster, then finish with the candidate delivering her speech and the poster being displayed to the whole group. We do not hold any voting, saying instead that "you each have won by doing this." We also point out that the only people being graded today are us-in the evaluation.

We have used a variety of issues for the campaign exercise:

Program Date Topic(s)
March 2000 "Should teenagers accused of violent crimes be tried as adults?"
"Should development in the Pinelands be allowed?"
March 2001 "Should the U.S. increase trade with countries that do not respect human rights?"
"Should electronic voting be used in the U.S.?"
March 2002 "Is it acceptable for the government to suspend civil liberties in a time of war?"
"Should we drill for oil in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge?"
November 2002 "Is it acceptable for the government to suspend civil liberties in wartime?"
Etc... Up to...
February 2008 Illegal Immigration: If elected U.S, Senator, which proposals would you support? Why?
April 2009 Climate Change and Emerging Energy Policies
April 2010 Climate Change and Emerging Energy Policies

For each of these questions, we supplied one page of factual information and another with a column of "pro" arguments and a column of "con" arguments.

In March, 2004 we used an open-ended question, "If you were the Mayor of Camden, how would you improve the city?" We gave them information on four areas of concern and a few programs that have worked elsewhere.

In March, 2005, we focused on four provisions of the USA Patriot Act due to sunset at the end of the year and asked, "Should these provisions be renewed?" We supplied background information on the Bill of Rights and the Patriot Act, as well as "pro" and "con" arguments for each provision under consideration.

Partnerships & Funding

Our co-sponsors have been the Cherry Hill branch of the American Association of University Women, the South Jersey Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the Cherry Hill Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Chinese Women's Association of New Jersey, and Flaster and Greenberg, P.C. We ask them to help plan and execute the workshop as well as donate money to it. Allowing for our volunteers' preferences, we assign jobs and hold an instructional session before each workshop, giving detailed verbal and written directions to them.

In addition, we use mail and phone contacts to raise money from interested individuals, local businesses and political parties to pay for supplies, breakfast, lunch, and occasionally transportation. We process these donations through the Education Fund that LWVNJ holds for us, allowing them to tax deduct their contributions, often a selling point. Sometimes part of the expenses will be borne by the school, but we go into it expecting to pay for everything.

And, of course, the schools themselves are one of our most important partners. The first year of the program, we brought the young women to a central location at Camden County College. In other years, we went to specific schools that agreed to serve as host. The hosts include high schools throughout the county, as well as Rowan University. The list of schools is found here as a pdf file.

Results

We give each girl a loose leaf binder with program directions and resources for the issue and women's political history. (Its contents are included as "Binder-Program" and "Binder-Resources" in this manual.) We take a photo of each girl when she arrives and display them all, labeled with their names, on a "Picture Yourself in the Senate" poster just before the campaign exercise. At the end of the workshop, we call up each girl and give her a certificate. These details are not essential, but they add much to the positive tone of the experience.

The girls are very involved in the interviews and very excited by the campaign activity. They tell us that they see politics in a much more positive light and want to become more involved. Many also say they have discovered , e.g., that they can work well under pressure, work well with strangers, argue for their ideas, design a poster, write a speech or deliver one, and thus feel much more confident. Many take home voter registration forms, and a few have joined the League. (Several politicians have also joined.) We do not know if they will run for office someday, but their perspectives on politics and themselves have definitely changed for the better, and they have a more realistic perspective on what they might do to contribute to their own communities, using their talents and abilities to make a difference. Their comments say it best of all:

"The keynote speech inspired me to push for what I want to achieve in my life."

"This experience opened up a lot of options for me, because now I have resources and connections in order to be active in my community."

"I liked when we were able to talk to elected officials, because they told us about their lives and how they went from point A to where they are now in politics."

"The campaign exercise was the best part, because it allowed for people who didn't know each other to work together to get something done."

"This experience encouraged me to listen more deeply, stand my ground, and to know that every person can make a difference."

Running & Winning programs give girls a transforming experience that allows them to do things they haven't thought they were capable of doing before.


Last updated: July 14, 2019
Comments: lwvccnj@gmail.com
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