STODDARD — James Faulkner Elementary School just might be building a political dynasty.
For the second straight year, a Stoddard 5th-grader has been named a finalist for N.H. Kid Governor. Brie Bell earned a spot on the Kid Executive Council for being among the top seven candidates from the 37 schools and more than 1,000 students that participated.
“It’s exciting and cool” to be the second consecutive Kid Executive Councilor representing Stoddard, Brie said. She follows Patrick Lavoie, who reached the final round of voting last school year, the first time the school participated in the statewide program.
This year’s kid executives, each of whom developed three-point platforms on issues they care about, were inaugurated a week and a half ago, and have hit the ground running. The group held its first virtual meeting last week and plans to spend the year advocating for and serving homeless Granite Staters.
Throughout Brie’s campaign, which began in the fall as part of the English and social studies curriculum at Faulkner Elementary, the 10-year-old said she learned a lot about state government as well as how to research and form an argument.
She ran on a platform that youth athletics are too expensive and that all elementary-school students should get the chance to play sports, regardless of their ability to pay. In her campaign video, which she produced with the help of her Faulkner classmates, she argues that “Every kid deserves to play” and “Sports should be free. Vote for Brie.”
“I really like to play sports ... and I decided that sports are really important to some kids’ lives,” Brie said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s a way for them to be active. And some people at my school, and some of my friends, didn’t have the opportunity to play sports, and I felt that they would like to play sports if they had the opportunity to.”
Brie said softball is her favorite, and she also plays basketball and soccer. Since Stoddard doesn’t have a youth softball team, she said she has played for teams primarily in the Keene area and currently competes through the Junior Swamp Bats program.
In her three-minute campaign video, which includes scenes of Brie and her classmates shooting hoops and tossing a ball on the playground at Faulkner Elementary, she cites statistics on sports participation and media reports on how much Americans spend on youth athletics in her argument that the state should subsidize more school sports programs.
“Brie is an incredibly passionate student,” said Amanda Bridges, her teacher at Faulkner Elementary. “She has a really strong sense of justice, of right and wrong. So the Kid Governor program was right up her alley.”
All of the 5th-graders at Faulkner developed platforms and wrote campaign speeches in the fall, before holding a primary election. After Brie won the primary, the entire class joined her campaign team, Bridges said, helping her research her platform, fact-check her arguments and put together the video.
“It’s a really great program, and it just fits really well with the [English language arts] program that we had been using already,” Bridges said. “The kids really learn a lot about finding facts to support the arguments in their platform.”
Brie’s mom, Tara Bell, said she couldn’t stop sending the video to family and friends.
“It’s pretty amazing, because I see my child as she is at home, so to see her come up with a campaign video that all of her and her class participated in, I was blown away by the way she presented herself, her passion for her platform,” said Tara Bell, a teacher at Hillsboro-Deering Middle School. “Just the way she came across in the video is really impressive.”
As the nominee from Faulkner Elementary, Brie’s video went to the N.H. Kid Governor Advisory Board, a group of 15 education and other civic leaders who selected the seven finalists. All of the schools participating in the program then voted in November. The 2021 N.H. Kid Governor, Charlie Olsen of Auburn, was sworn in along with the six-member Executive Council, during a virtual ceremony Jan. 29.
The group’s first meeting last week gave the kids a chance to get to know each other and to choose an issue to focus on during their yearlong term. Luane Genest, coordinator of the N.H. Kid Governor program, said they have chosen to address homelessness and plan to organize a collection of supplies for shelters throughout the Granite State, especially those that serve children.
“It’s really a program that gives kids a voice, and it’s amazing what they do,” Genest said.
This is the third year New Hampshire has elected a Kid Governor, according to Genest. Similar programs exist in Oregon and Connecticut, where the initiative started in 2015 as a project of the nonprofit Connecticut Democracy Center.
Brie said she may continue to work on her platform to make youth sports more affordable during her term in office, but for now she’s happy to help her fellow executives pursue their plans for homelessness.
“I’m just proud with the way she conducts herself,” Tara Bell said of her daughter.