East Rockaway Students Attend Presidential Debate


Five students from East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School participated in the Hofstra Debate Student Program Day at Hofstra University on Sept. 26.

Eighth-grader Sofia Bertolotti, freshman Sharon Oosterwijk, sophomore Nico Capone, junior Brian Harelick and senior Justin Sandoval were chosen to attend by the social studies department, based on their response to the inquiry-based question, “If you were moderating one of the presidential debates, what question would you ask the candidates? Please explain why you believe your question is important in this election and support with evidence.”

Leading up to the debate, the students participated in a plethora of activities, including a panel discussion, an MTV virtual museum, an ABC live broadcast, a CNN correspondence experience and a debate watch party. Social studies teacher Carol Sanders accompanied the students.
April Francis, East Rockaway’s chairperson of social studies and foreign language and a Hofstra alumna, was one of a few Long Island educators given the opportunity to send five students out of the 100 allotted spaces available to attend. The students enjoyed a remarkable experience at this momentous and historic event.

The students were asked to reflect on their experience by answering the following questions: Which candidate did you support before the debate? Did your opinion change after the debate? What was your favorite moment of the debate? Describe your overall experience of being able to attend. Here are some of their answers.

Nico Capone
“I supported Donald Trump before the debate and, despite the immaturity both candidates showed during the debate, I still support Mr. Trump.”

Brian Harelick
“I was undecided before attending the debate and now I support Hillary Clinton. Based on her performance, I think she’ll be better for the country.”

Sharon Oosterwijk
“I supported Hillary Clinton before the debate and my opinion did not change after the debate because I felt that Hillary made valid points that only boosted my support.”

Justin Sandoval
“To be honest, I didn’t support either candidate before the debate. My opinion did change after the debate. I noticed that Donald Trump wasn’t as confident as he usually is during his rallies. Overall, I think I would rather have Hillary Clinton as president. She has experience in government and her personality seems more convincing to help and protect the people of the United States. I can’t even explain in words the thrill I experienced being in the same location with the future president. It was a privilege to attend.”