On March 28, University High School Associated Student Body (UHS ASB) hosted the 23rd annual Election Convention. Over two hundred student representatives packed the big theater, voting, participating in competitions between homerooms and interviewing candidates. As rounds of speeches and polling progressed, a pool of thirty-one candidates narrowed quickly, leaving three of eight positions undetermined by the second round. After four successive electoral rounds, compared to last year’s six, ASB Vice President Carli Jipsen (Sr.) announced the winners. Convention results are posted on the UHS Sword and Shield Facebook page and online edition.
Early morning, senior council and ASB members began decorating the Big Theatre with patriotic-colored streamers and homeroom-submitted posters, adorned with cartoons and sketches symbolizing the fifty states. Mr. Kevin Kasper (Science Dept.) and Ms. Jung Kang’s (World Languages Dept.) homeroom, which represented Tennessee, and Ms. Jane Mitchell’s (Social Science Dept.) homeroom, which represented Kentucky, were winners of the homeroom poster competition.
At 7:30 A.M., hundreds of delegates trickled into the Big Theatre, several wearing costumes, including hats, capes and face paint, sounding their noisemakers. Senior council members guided delegates and candidates to their respective seating sections, marked off by pickets. During the flag salute, Ali Eftekharian (Sr.) recited the Pledge of Allegiance. As the opening ceremony concluded, Mr. John Pehrson (Admin.) spoke to the delegates, emphasizing the large proportion of first-time participants at this year’s convention and his experience overseeing student government elections at other high schools. ASB advisor Ms. Jeanne Jelnick (English Dept.) said, “Many delegates attended the election convention for the first time and had less experience. I noticed a dearth of questions compared to previous years when the delegates question the candidates.”
A brief clip of a haunted-house themed film, featuring current ASB members, introduced each electoral round. After an ASB member unexpectedly disappears during within the haunted house during the clip, he or she emerged on stage to announce the candidates running for his or her respective across the stage, candidates await their turn as current ASB members read questions, either written by the respective ASB officeholder or another ASB member to avoid a conflict of interest. Candidates have thirty seconds to one minute to respond to a question, depending on the electoral round. Candidates dealt with a mix of position-specific and personality questions, including identifying opponents’ strengths and individual weaknesses, explaining plans of leadership at UHS even if not elected, providing solutions to unify preexisting groups within ASB, and reenacting scenarios specific to their positions. During the second electoral round, vice president candidates Shannon Choi (Jr.), Spencer Ma (Jr.) and Albert Tung (Jr.) were asked to advise a fictitious, irresponsible ASB member. Student Activities Coordinator (SAC) candidates Aiden Gallasetti (Jr.), Bruce Miranda (Jr.) and Alex Hurwitz (Jr.) acted and even rapped a public announcement and juggled additional announcements SAC Keon Zemoudeh (Sr.) added in.
At the end of every questioning session, the delegates polled their answers on ballots. Senior council members relayed the votes of their designated sections to Ms. Cidnejean Rector (Staff) and ASB members, who tallied the results for each round. Serving as the convention’s record keeper for the past sixteen years, Ms. Rector said, “Convention is the favorite part of my job. It is an amazing educational experience. This year, I worked with an additional counter. Council and I work together to speed up the process.” The results are announced after the candidates for each of the five positions have been questioned. Awaiting results of the second round, candidate Yauss Agahi (Jr.) said, “The convention sets a very friendly environment for me. I appreciate all the support ASB has provided for the candidates.”
After the third electoral round, the position of student representative remained tied in a gridlock between candidates Sarah Verdegan (So.) and Jennifer Kodia (Jr.). During the fourth electoral round, Carli Jipsen asked Sarah and Jennifer the tie-breaking questions focusing on the purpose of ASB and their personal capabilities to represent the UHS population, straying from previous questions about Homeroom Senate and schedule changes.
The election convention is unique to the UHS student government election process. At other Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) high schools, administration and ASB staffs host primaries and interviews to elect candidates. The UHS Election Convention is a miniature reenactment of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, evaluating the population and grade-level composition of individual homerooms. Election Convention, alongside the “Meet the Candidates” event, provides a forum for students to communicate their interests and concerns to candidates. ASB allows homerooms to elect a specified number of representatives, which may prevent a sizeable UHS student population from attending the Convention during their high school experience.
During the Convention’s second round, delegates volunteered to ask candidates questions regarding his/her respective position. Delegate questions centered on candidates’ problem solving and communication skills. Delegates asked Sports Commissioner candidates Timothy Kwan (Jr.) and John Chung (Jr.) “How would you advertise and increase attendance at regular games despite the negative connotations associated with UHS sports?,” Student Representative candidates, “How will you make yourself most accessible to the student body?,” and ASB President candidates, “How will you be different from the last president?”
ASB advisors Mr. Michael Gerakos (Staff) and Ms. Jelnick oversaw the Convention’s organization, scouting and clarifying delegates’ questions, communicating technical difficulties to theater staff and assisting ASB in hosting electoral rounds. Mr. Gerakos said, “The convention went smoothly. Carli and the convention committees came together and made this event a success. All the candidates were outstanding. Last year, there was a rush for time and we had fewer candidates. This year, it went really smoothly.” A first-time ASB advisor, Mrs. Jelnick said,” Planning for convention is almost as demanding for students and us as Spirit Week. It is a lot of fun, competitiveness and working together. The convention went beautifully because of this year’s ASB efforts and next year it will be strong too.”
Interviews for elected ASB positions will be held on April 28th. Information regarding interview times will posted the week of April 21st on the UHS ASB website and the Student Activities Center.
Written by MAHIMA VERMA