PJ's AP Government & Politics class gets hands on during election races

Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School

SPARTA — Government and politics has been a staple course students have to learn when they are in high school.

Within that course, they learn things such as how the U.S. government formed its democracy, how elections work and how political parties have played a vital role in how the country is shaped today.

But recently, 17 Pope John XXIII Regional High School students in Mrs. Jacquelyn Burt’s AP US Government & Politics class got to experience first-hand how government and politics work during election time by going out and working for a political party of their choice for two hours. The two-hour clinical experience is a requirement while taking the course.  

“This was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had doing an assignment,” Pope John XXIII Regional High School junior Jonathan Condon said. “There’s only so much you can do in a classroom, so this was something I got a lot out of.”

The 17 students did a number of volunteer efforts for their respective political parties such as working phone banks, canvassing, or acting as hosts or greeters at fundraisers in a local venue.

Within those experiences, these students got some interesting insight.

Condon worked for Republican Kim Guadagno’s campaign for Governor of New Jersey out of the Newton VFW. During his time, he put up campaign signs for Guadagno in nearby Warren County.

However, Condon was able to see how politics is played and the effort that goes into it.

“Politics is a crazy game,” Condon said. “Everybody is trying to campaign their ideas, their way of governing and do whatever it takes to get elected.”

Condon also got to meet Guadagno, who currently serves as Lieutenant Governor under Gov. Chris Christie.

“It was pretty amazing,” Condon said of meeting Guadagno. “I took a picture with her and posted it on Instagram. It was really cool.”

Senior Jack Lubertazzi also got to see Guadagno and many Republican candidates up close, as he worked as a greeter at Guadagno’s rally dinner the night before the election. Lubertazzi loved how the candidates showed their pride in what they do.

“Seeing her and all the mayors from towns such as Washington Township to even Sparta’s mayor come together for this rally was amazing,” Lubertazzi said. “You see how everyone plays a part for the party. It gave me a much better understanding in that regard.”

Senior Margaret Butler, senior David Dietz and junior Bradley Wisinski canvassed for the Democratic Party on Election Day. They went door-to-door in Lake Hopatcong to campaign for State Senate candidate Jennifer Hamilton and provided information about the Democratic Party.

During their experience, they received help from 2012 Pope John graduate Sal Bigay, who worked on the campaign for fellow Democrats Kate Matteson and Gina Trish for State Assembly. Bigay graduated from Connecticut College with a bachelor’s degree in government.

“He made it much easier,” Butler said. “He helped give us a better understanding of how canvassing worked and how grassroots is necessary to be taken seriously as a politician. He did some things before he majored in government and had worked with the campaign for a little bit, so he knew what he was doing.”

Madison Doherty, Olivia Gang and Paige Yeomans made phone calls for the local and state Republican candidates at the Sussex County GOP headquarters in Hamburg. The three of them were surprised to see how their lessons in class still apply to politics today.

“We got to see what we are learning in class in the real world,” Yeomans said. “We saw the inner workings of campaigning and how people make their living out of politics.”

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