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Mock GOP debate entertains and informs students

Queensborough Community College students and faculty members celebrate the school's GOP mock presidential debate last week. Photo courtest Queensborough Community College
TimesLedger Newspapers

There may have been actors, but there wasn’t any script. Students posing as GOP hopefuls for the Republican presidential nomination exhibited their skills last Thursday when the Queensborough Community College mock trial team faced off on the issues.

“This is important because it was driven by students. They had an interest in making people more politically engaged,” said Diane Call, the college’s president. “It’s a wonderful experience to see them take the skills necessary for a debate and articulate the different points of view.”

Four students acting as Republican GOP presidential contenders — former Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) — fielded questions from classmates posed as distinguished journalists with the goal to portray their respective political opinions.

Members of the college, at 222-05 56th Ave. in Bayside, gathered in the Medical Arts building on March 29 to listen and learn.

Outside the mock debate was a voter registration table, inviting any students to file for the 2012 presidential election in November.

Faculty advisers and professors Kelly Ford, Leslie Francis, Ted Rosen and Stephen Hammel guided the college’s mock trial team.

Rosen said it was a win-win kind of event that offered entertainment and education.

“There is significant value to an event such as this,” Rosen said. “Realistically portraying people who are currently shaping the national conversation is a powerful tool in helping students appreciate and become involved in an experience of historical importance.”

The students embraced their political roles with passion and authority, speaking with emotion over the issues their characters felt strongly about. Above them was a projected photograph of the candidates they were there to represent.

Shirley Aguilar portrayed Paul and consistently made it a point to suggest ending the country’s Federal Reserve System, a notion Paul has become known to push.

Jace Dunn, who acted as Gingrich, made the ex-speaker’s popular promise to lower gas prices to below $3 a gallon early in his talking points.

Anthony Rivera was calm and cool while as Romney, speaking as a candidate ahead in the delegates count, while Gbenga Omotade portrayed Santorum and mentioned the senator’s dedication to drilling domestically for petroleum resources.

According to Hammel, there was more benefit out of the debate than simply entertaining an audience.

“The students became interested. They were enlightened and their research enhanced their views,” Hammel said. “They zoned in on issues like spending and taxation, which was the ultimate goal. We wanted them to learn while they prepared.”

Student Oluwadamisi Atanda introduced the candidates and said the event was organized to spark voter engagement and educate each other on the issues.

“This was not scripted. It’s about public speaking and thinking on your feet,” Atanda said. “Hopefully, the audience will open their minds, enjoy and educate themselves.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Ellen Hartigan echoed Atanda’s message.

“This is an excellent opportunity for all of us to learn a little bit more,” Hartigan said. “We all have the right to share our points of view.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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