Medford teen heads to campaign trail
by News Editor Brian Wilson
When a typical teenager thinks of a cool mid-winter getaway Iowa is not at the top of their list. But that’s OK, since Medford Area Senior High School junior Mikayla Kelz isn’t your typical teenager.
Kelz was picked as one of 12 students from across the country to take part in “Chase the Race 2016,” a program through the experience-based education organization Envision. Kelz will travel to Iowa from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 to do live reporting on the presidential caucuses.
“We will be reporting and talking to candidates and reporting to the youth of our generation,” Kelz said. The reports will be broadcast on Envision’s Chase the Race website, www.ChasetheRace2016.com, which also includes information for teachers to use in their classrooms.
Envision reporters will be on-location during upcoming Republican and Democratic debates, the Iowa Caucus, Super Tuesday, and the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The reporters will interview a variety of participants in the upcoming election – including candidates, current and former politicians, advisers and pundits – and produce video and social media content focused on the issues that are most important to the next generation of voters. The program will conclude with a Presidential Inauguration Leadership Summit during the 2017 inauguration.
“Today’s high school students are poised to become one of the most critical generations in our nation’s history,” said Andrew Potter, chief academic officer at Envision. “The Chase the Race 2016 reporters are comprised of passionate, driven students across the country who will bring a range of viewpoints and experiences that are representative of today’s youth. They are the ideal group of young reporters to serve as a resource for young people looking to engage in the U.S. Presidential campaign and our political process.”
He said Chase the Race 2016 furthers Envision’s mission of enabling students of all ages to explore their interests and gain learning experiences beyond the classroom.
By partnering with Discovery Education, the leading provider of digital content and professional development for K-12 classrooms, the content produced by Envision reporters will be shown in classrooms across the country. Other educational partners that will amplify Chase the Race include the Youth Leadership Initiative at UVA, the National History Club and Generation Citizen.
Kelz said she isn’t nervous about speaking with national political figures, it is the idea of doing it during live broadcasts that concerns her. “I am excited, but I am really nervous about the thought of live reporting, I can’t mess it up,” she said.
Being in front of a camera interviewing people is nothing new for Kelz. She is one of the founders of “Teens Talk Politics,” a Youtube Channel she started with her classmates about political issues. In those videos, Kelz has interviewed people such as Shirley Abrahamson, chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. However, the big difference between those interviews and what she will be doing in Iowa is the “Teens Talk Politics” pieces are recorded ahead of time allowing them to edit the pieces later.
She said one of the challenges with doing a live interview with someone like candidate Bernie Sanders would be to know what the candidate’s issues are and how to ask intelligent questions and react to what they answer with follow up questions.
Kelz said her goal is to try and ask questions that will be relevant to today’s youth such as education issues. She noted that many students are very aware of politics and there are many teens especially who are following the presidential race closely.
Kelz grew up in a politically aware household but discovered her own passion for it during her sophomore year in an Advanced Placement American Government and Politics Class taught by Corey Nazer. It was during that class that students formed the Teens Talk Politics group to help educate other youth about the importance of politics.
“Teens and the younger generation do care, they just don’t know how to get involved,” Kelz said.
Last fall Kelz took part in the National Youth Leadership Forum: National Security – Diplomacy, Intelligence & Defense which was sponsored by Envision. As an alumna of that program, Kelz was eligible to take part in the national contest to try and become one of the Chase the Race reporters. She recorded a video of herself and posted it on the contest website for people to vote. She was number six in the vote tally and was selected to take part on the Chase the Race program. Envision is covering the cost of her being in Iowa including lodging and a meal stipend.
Kelz said she is looking forward to the experience on a practical level. She is looking ahead to college and a potential career in broadcast journalism and said this program is a great way to get first hand experience and see if it is a career she would be interested in following. She was also looking forward to meeting national political figures in person. In addition to her broadcast for Envision, Kelz plans on taking her own video footage to make a montage of the experience for Teens Talk Politics.
Looking ahead Kelz said she could picture herself becoming involved in politics in the future at least on the local or state level. When Kelz comes back from her experience at the Iowa Caucus she won’t have long to wait until her next political adventure. She recently received word she was accepted into the Senate Scholar Program for the state of Wisconsin. She will be spending a week in Madison in March in a model legislature working on legislation and passing laws with a highlight of the trip being a special lunch at the governor’s mansion.
She said she couldn’t do any of this without the support of her parents, Karl Kelz and Nancy Campbel-Kelz. “They are very supportive of anything I want to do. Which is really nice to have,” she said.