Raimondo encourages student candidates to run for office

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raimondo3Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo was in Bristol Monday, May 20, kicking off the Colt Andrews elementary school’s campaign season and encouraging students to run for student government.

A “Campaign School” will be held in early June, geared toward helping members of the Student Government who are interested in running for a leadership role understand the ins and outs of the process and running an effective campaign.

Planned speakers include Brendan Doherty, who recently challenged Representative David Cicilline for his RI-1 congressional seat; Ken Block, Moderate Party head and recent gubernatorial candidate; political consultant Patrick Sweeney; Cool Moose party founder Bob Healey; and Bristol Town Councilman Tim Sweeney.
Treasurer Raimondo encouraged the students to run for office and gave them some advice from her own experience. ” When I started the campaign, sometimes I worried that I would not succeed,” she said.

“Run the best campaign you can, work hard and you will come away from the experience stronger and smarter than you were before—whether you win or lose. And don’t be afraid to lose.”

Colt Andrews Student Government is alive and well today, thanks to the efforts of parents, faculty advisor and music teacher Elizabeth Vincze, and community advisor and School Committee member Paul Silva. Though typically dealing with age-appropriate issues like access to playground equipment, the Student Government effectively mirrors “grown up” legislative bodies: participants follow Robert’s Rules of Order, record the minutes of their meetings, and break into subcommittees to hash out compromises. They also fundraise, this year earning nearly $1500 for Hasbro Children’s Hospital, a “grown-up” sum by any measure.
Reached after the event, Raimondo had high praise for the Colt Andrews students. “I was so impressed with the questions from the students and excited to hear about the student government program at Colt-Andrews.  Being involved in the community and in government is rewarding for me and I hope that some of these children will also go into public service.”
Raimondo joked, “I wouldn’t want to run against them any time soon. The competition looks strong.”
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Bucking the trend   

The Colt Andrews student government in unique in one notable way: this year, its executive committee is an exclusive girls’ club. That makes Treasurer Raimondo a uniquely appropriate role model. Nationally, female candidates are woefully underrepresented in the halls of power. According to Jennifer Lawless, Associate Professor of Government at American University and author of “It Still Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don’t Run For Office,” there are seven key reasons hindering gender parity:
•    Women are more likely to perceive the electoral environment as competitive and biased.
•    Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin’s candidacies aggravated women’s perceptions of gender bias.
•    Women are less likely than men to perceive themselves as qualified.
•     Potential female candidates are less competitive and confident, and more risk-averse than men.
•    Women react more negatively than men to modern political campaigns.
•    Women are less likely than men to receive a suggestion that they run for office.
•    Women remain responsible for the majority of childcare and household responsibilities.
Of course, those distinctions between men and women are meaningless to the power-brokers at Colt Andrews, who just know that they are having fun with their friends and learning some interesting things about how the world works. Their parents appreciate the experience as well. “Student government has been a great experience for Kaleigh,” says Mary Ann Quinn, mother of the Vice President. “It has provided her with the opportunity to gain experience in public speaking, one-on-one interaction with teachers and school administrators, and the ability to work as a team with her peers. I think that she had gained a lot of self confidence from it.”
At one point during her visit to Colt Andrews, treasurer Raimondo addressed the all-girl executive committee, which which she shared the stage, directly. “I’m the first female democrat to serve as treasurer in Rhode Island, a state that has had no female governors or senators and only one female congressman,” she said. “And I have to say, it’s pretty cool to see four girls up here. You make me so happy and proud.”

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