A 16-year-old volunteer who changed her mind

NASHUA – For someone who isn’t old enough to vote, 16-year-old Rose Mwaura has been doing a lot of thinking about which candidate she would support if she could cast a ballot.

So much, in fact, that the Nashua High School South junior said she has recently changed her mind as Election Day nears.

Mwaura is a volunteer at the Nashua headquarters for Sen. John McCain and the Republican Party. She makes phone calls after school, encouraging people to cast their vote for the GOP candidates on Tuesday.

She said that in her phone conversations with people, voters are concerned about taxes and health care more than any other issues.

“Everyone is pretty much looking for answers,” she said, just before making another round of phone calls. A sign on the wall read, “We need volunteers to win.”

And when asked at the time which candidate she would be supporting for president if she could vote, she said she would support McCain.

Mwaura said she was more impressed by McCain’s plan for college affordability than that of his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama.

Although she considers herself an independent, “I have a lot of conservatism in me,” she said. “But there are some things I’m more open minded about.”

That was earlier in October.

Later in the month, Mwaura said she had changed her mind and that Obama would be her choice for president if she could vote.

She said it was during the research in her classes in preparation for the school’s mock election that she learned more about where each candidate stands on public education.

Mwaura said she’s concerned about the lack of funding that has been provided by the federal government to pay for the requirements of No Child Left Behind. She also said she doesn’t believe in the testing system mandated by the law.

“Teaching to the test doesn’t really work,” she said. “There should be more focus on adapting to students needs.”

McCain has said he believes in the accountability aspects of the law, saying it’s important for parents to have ways to measure student performance and whether schools are making the grade.

Obama has said he supports some aspects of No Child Left Behind, but has said there needs to be improved ways of measuring performance than relying only on test results.

Mwaura said she believes Obama will help to provide more funding to schools so they can provide more programs.

Even though she has changed her mind, Mwaura said she would continue to volunteer at the McCain office because she likes being involved in the process. But she said she was also going to explore the possibility of volunteering for Obama, as well, as Election Day drew nearer.

And she admits she isn’t sold on Obama’s foreign policy credentials. She still believes that when it comes to issues of foreign policy and national security, McCain is still the stronger candidate.

Mwaura said her parents are Obama supporters. Politics dominates much of the conversation in her household, she said.

“In my house, that’s all we talk about,” she said.

Mwaura and her family moved to the U.S. from Kenya in 1998. She said the transition was difficult because she was already in school and was placed behind where she was in her home country.

Mwaura said learning about where candidates stand on the issues is important for everyone.

“I believe that if we don’t learn about politics, about what has and hasn’t worked, we can’t grow as a country,” she said.