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Marquette County students compete in Tom Baldini Soapbox Challenge

Eight students from both Marquette Senior High School and Negaunee Middle School presented their big ideas on a stage in front of peers and judges.
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 5:59 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Marquette County students are excited to present their big ideas, with no better place to do it than a spotlit stage.

The group of competitors in the Tom Baldini Soapbox Challenge consisted of five Marquette Senior High Schoolers and three Negaunee Middle School students. They all sounded off on different issues in front of judges and peers at Kaufman Auditorium Thursday.

These issues ranged from the opioid epidemic, “The opioid crisis has been an ongoing issue since the 1990s,” proclaimed MSHS Senior Carly Clemann of America’s lethal drug overdose problem.

To education reform, “When students have access to better education it makes sense that they perform better on standardized tests,” MSHS Senior Alex Guidon said. “It seems logical that more funding would go to schools with lower [test] scores, but this isn’t what happens.”

The goal of the Tom Baldini Soapbox Challenge is to get students talking about issues for which they are passionate. “The three questions that we pose are what’s the biggest issue facing your community, why should we care, and what needs to be done about it?,” MSHS AP Government and AP History Teacher Blythe Raikko said. “Every year never ceases to amaze us what the students come up with.”

MSHS Senior Nolan Thurston spoke last. Thurston talked about how to combat cell phone addiction that he believes is affecting his peers. “I’m not asking you to throw your phone into a lake and delete all social media, but take some time, step away from it and see how it goes,” Thurston said to students in the audience. He continued, “Put your phone down, spend some time with family, spend time with friends, read a book, go outside.”

Thurston won the student choice award. Receiving the most votes from his peers.

MSHS Senior Samuel McKnight’s fiery speech on ending America’s two-party political system won the judges’ vote. “Our political parties do not serve us, they do not serve the American people, they serve only the elite politicians already in power and only the partisan extremes who rile us up into mobs and pit us against each other so they can stay in power,” McKnight said strongly.

McKnight added that he wants to pursue a career in public office, but does not align himself strongly with either the Republican or Democratic parties. “I don’t really fit in either of the political parties and I’ve realized that lots of other people don’t as well when I’ve been talking to [them],” McKnight said. “I genuinely think a lot of the division that we’ve been seeing comes from that.”

Marquette Senior High School said that it is holding another civic engagement event in May where students who spoke at Kaufman Auditorium Thursday can bring their ideas to life.

No confirmed date, name or location for the event is scheduled at this time.

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