Willmar high school students talk politics, want more policy discussions

WILLMAR - The negativity of this year's presidential campaign has made an impression on the students in Steve Grove's ethnic studies class at Willmar Senior High School.

Talking politics
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Tim Harrison listens to Abdi Makadin Oct. 14 during Steve Grove's ethnic studies class at Willmar Senior High. Makadin talks about his views on this presidential election.

WILLMAR – The negativity of this year’s presidential campaign has made an impression on the students in Steve Grove’s ethnic studies class at Willmar Senior High School.

Along with discussing topics like immigration and Black Lives Matter, the class has talked about the election.

Grove said they have talked about the exaggerations and name-calling seen in debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The overall negativity of the campaign has been a topic of conversation, too.

Students who have been watching the debates said a week ago that their views were not affected from the first debate to the second. Just one of the handful of students old enough to vote said he was still undecided. The others’ preferences had not changed as new issues came up in the campaign.

Mostly, the students did not seem to be fans of this year’s campaign.


Several said they would like to hear the candidates talk more about issues and attack each other a little less.

“I feel like the candidates spend more time smack-talking,” and that’s led to “such a negative attitude toward both candidates,” said Noah Streed, 17.

In debates, the candidates have spent a lot of time on “things we already knew they believed” rather than advancing the discussion, said David Cairns, 17. The vice presidential debate made him feel “like they should be the presidential candidates.”

As to what they wanted to see from candidates, several had suggestions.

For 18-year-old and new citizen Maslah Rashid, talking about building a wall between the United States and Mexico wasn’t useful. “It’s going to take a lot of money,” he said.

“I’d want Hillary to clear up some of the stuff she’s hidden,” said Abdi Makadin, 16.

Kate Murphy, 18, said she would rather hear candidates talk about changes they plan to make.

Foreign relations was of interest to some students.


“I think it would be good if Donald Trump would establish foreign affairs (credentials),” said Patrick Janning, 17. Clinton has “connections” as a former Secretary of State, but Trump is “not even a politician.”

Tim Harrison, 18, agreed. “Trump is too focused on the U.S.,” he said. “HIllary is more open.”

Makadin said he felt Trump had “strong negative viewpoints” of some people, and it’s become socially acceptable for people with similar views to speak out.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
What To Read Next
Mike Clemens, a farmer from Wimbledon, North Dakota, was literally (and figuratively) “blown away,” when his equipment shed collapsed under a snow load.
Volunteers lead lessons on infusing fibers with plant dyes and journaling scientific observations for youth in Crow Wing and Olmsted counties.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission met on Jan. 5, 2023, to consider the application for Summit Carbon Solutions.
Qualified Minnesota farmers will receive dollar-for-dollar matching money to purchase farmland.