Campus: San Francisco State University -- September 15, 2004
Prof. Teaches Politics in Thick of Conventions
As presidential politics reached fever pitch during the political conventions
in New York and Boston, Assistant Professor of
Broadcast and Electronic
Communication Arts Melissa Camacho and more than 150 high school students
were first-hand witnesses to what a career in politics is all about.
"Politicians are busy, very, very busy," said Nick Rivera,
an Aptos High School senior who attended both conventions. "They
are always doing something, like speaking to delegations or attending
Through the Junior State of America (JSA),
a nationwide organization in which high school students form and run a
democracy, Camacho and the 165 teens from throughout the country, attended
the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention.
Over the two weeks, the teens met such high-profile politicians as
Barack Obama, Howard Dean, Michael Dukakis, Carol Mosley Braun and Hillary
Clinton. They were also in the audience for the speeches of Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger, the Bush twins and first lady Laura Bush.
"The students' participation in the conventions offered them the
opportunity to experience our democratic process first hand," Camacho
said. "At the same time, it gives them a chance to recognize that
there are alternative points of view, and that they can co-exist in
Camacho, who has taught political communication for JSA's summer session
at Stanford University since 1999, said she spends her summers teaching
politics to high school students because it is an opportunity for her
to incorporate politics and media.
"It's a chance for me to merge my media world -- both as a former
producer and as a Ph.D. in mass media -- and my government world, as
I have two degrees in government," Camacho said. "Also, I
get to teach a college course to high school students who really want
to learn! These kids are our future leaders. ... They are outstanding
and believe in our democratic system."
In addition to navigating Boston and New York with 165 high school students,
Camacho ran nightly workshops that deconstructed the day's events and
included campaign simulations. In the simulations, students role played
candidates, their managers, interest groups, a free-speech zone and
media representatives to learn how the system works.
The JSA summer symposia are sponsored by the
Junior Statesmen Foundation
and are held in six states. Each summer symposium includes an array
of classes pertaining to politics as well as cultural trips and extra-curricular
activities. Election symposia in which students attend political conventions
are held during presidential election years.
"I liked both conventions for different reasons," said Arcadia
High School senior Jacqueline Pinta. "But the best part was the
California delegation party. It was great to meet politicians in a casual