MARIETTA - The chatter in the hallway as the Young Democrats and Young Republicans made their way to the Marietta High School auditorium on Election Day touched on everything from how long the results would drag on to a supposed link between football and the outcome of the presidential race.
If there was nervousness prior to the debate, which was held in front of the entire student body and faculty, it wasn't totally apparent.
"I am a little nervous to do this in front of the whole school and especially teachers because I have always tried to have a strictly professional relationship with them," said junior Justin Warner, one of four Young Republicans who would be making the case for why Mitt Romney should be President of the United States.
Marietta High School principal Bill Lee speaks to an auditorium full of students and faculty while introducing the Young Republican and Young Democrat debate teams. (Photo by Erin O’Neill)
"But I've always been passionate about politics and I understand the importance of each vote," he said. "I've tried to inform myself and to research both sides of an issue in depth."
The Young Republican group was organized by Jade Thompson, a Spanish teacher at the high school, after being approached to start one.
"A student came to me last year and asked about starting a Republican group and (Principal) Mr.
(Bill) Lee was OK with it," Thompson said. "The debate was actually (English teacher) Mr. (Joseph) Rabbene's idea."
English teacher Amy Warren jumped at the chance to organize a Young Democrats group in response.
"We've had a good turnout. I think we've had as many as 30 students for the meetings," she said.
The students took their own time to research and prepare for the debates, according to Thompson and Warren.
Modeled after the presidential and vice presidential debates, Tuesday's debate was a learning experience for all involved.
"We have the unique opportunity today for you to participate in a civics lesson," Lee told the student body, many of whom applauded wildly and chanted "U.S.A., U.S.A." Several hands went up when the principal asked how many 18-year-olds had fulfilled their obligation to vote.
Four seniors made up the panel of Young Democrats while four juniors sat opposite them as the Young Republicans. The questions posed by moderator Lee tackled such subjects as affirmative action, foreign policy and energy production, with both sides doing their best to explain their chosen candidate's position.
"We wanted to have a civil debate," said Thompson, "so we steered clear of social issues."
Of the students involved, only senior Evan Sawyer, 18, had the opportunity to vote in this election.
"I voted last Thursday at the courthouse for President Obama because of his plan for education and the economy," he said. "It was exhilarating and gave me such a feeling of civic pride."