St. Michael-Albertville Middle School West eighth-grade students who are 13 years old say they wish they were just a year older.
That's because they can't wait to vote — and in the next presidential election in 2016 — they'll be a year too shy.
Nearly 200 eighth-graders from the school boarded buses today to visit the polling place at Albertville City Hall. They saw the lines, watched registration, took in the rows of voting booths and were impressed by the ballot counting machine.
They left with "I Voted" stickers and a desire to vote.
The trips are part of lessons in elections the students are taking in their U.S. history classes.
Ryan Canton, eight-grade U.S. history teacher at St. Michael-Albertville Middle School West, said the event was the final touch of the school lessons on elections. Last week, a group of students showed the entire school videos about Pres. Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, and mock elections were held Monday and today.
"In a national election, you don't necessarily think about what that means locally," Canton said of his students' perspective. "This teaches them that it's the same process everywhere — it hits home a little bit more when they see their neighbors out voting, see what the process looks like, and conceptualize it."
The trip's purpose was also to promote civic duty, Canton said. He said it's especially important with 13-and-14-year-olds who sometimes have a mentality of "Why do I care? I can't vote anyway," he said.
Canton's student, Isabella Ferrozzo, 13, said the trip was a good learning experience.
"We know what to do now," Ferrozzo said, adding that she's looking forward to voting when she's an adult. "I'll have the right to vote, and I feel I could do it."
Jackson Larson, 14, echoed her excitement.
"I think this is a good experience, because you have prior knowledge — you're not walking in totally lost," Larson said. "It's important because that's how we choose the leaders of this country."
He was surprised at how quiet the polling place was — in comparison to political rallies.
He said he learned how easy it is to vote, but not so easy behind the scenes — polling place workers were going through each ballot to check for write-in votes.
"It's still exciting because you get to have a say in everything," he said.