CLEVELAND — While most people were watching from home, one local student was on the Republican National Convention floor, watching history get made.
“There were a ton of people, everybody was chanting. It was really high energy,” said Hannah Severt of Troy.
Severt, who starts her senior year at Troy High School in the fall, was able to attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week through the Junior Statesmen of America summer program.
JSA is a non-partisan program aimed at inspiring young people to pursue a future in leadership and politics.
“It gets kids more involved in politics,” she said.
Severt, who plans to major in political science in college and who would like to one day work in the Capitol, enjoyed the opportunity to see American politics in action.
“I’d like to go to law school and somehow find my way to D.C., doing something in politics,” she said. “I’d like to be in the middle of it and make a difference.”
The JSA Presidential Election Symposium brought students from all over the country to Cleveland for about a week, where they were treated to an insider’s look at all of the facets of the political process.
John Carroll University in Cleveland hosted the symposium at the RNC. Another symposium begins this week in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention.
The event helped students sharpen their debate skills and develop their stances of different issues with daily debates.
In addition to other programs, like lectures from many different speakers, participants spent two days at the actual convention, Wednesday and Thursday.
JSA participants heard remarks from high-profile party members like Sen. Ted Cruz and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, as well as both candidates on the Republican ticket: Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence and Presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“Being on the convention floor was amazing,” Severt said. “We had free-range at the convention and we were there for the bigger speeches. We saw a lot of the big names.”
The symposium also exposed participants to a wide spectrum of political viewpoints.
“There were a lot of people from both sides, we had all sort of different people with us this week,” Severt said. “Libertarians, Democrats. The majority of the kids there were Republicans, but we had everything from the really socially conservative, like Tea Party people, to the very moderate. It was really interesting to see where different people fell on social and economic issues.”
The program also introduced participants to other political movers and shakers.
“We had a lot of backstage access, you could say,” Severt said. “There were senators and people who worked on campaigns, we had a couple delegates. They came and spoke to us and we got to ask them questions and learn more about what they do.”
Participants had breakfast with state delegates and several of the event speakers. They also met some members of the media covering the event.
“They also had interviews live on stage that we got to watch, so that was really fun,” she said.
With all of the experience gained in the last week, Severt is also now ready to vote in her first election this fall.
“I will vote Trump, he’s not my first choice of candidates,” she added. “I think he’s sort of the lesser of two evils.”
Seeing something in person that most people will only get to see on TV was awe-inspiring, Severt said.
“You get there and you don’t really know what to expect,” she said. “It’s completely awe-inspiring to see all these politicians right in front of you. It’s a crazy experience.”
Reach reporter Cecilia Fox at [email protected]