As high school students navigate academics and social lives, they also find themselves engaged in political discussions. In our ongoing series “Cafeteria Chats,” WBFO's Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley sits down with students at Niagara Falls High School. In part one of this week’s installment, the students tell us President Trump has dominated conversations in their classrooms and hallways.
“I feel like we talk about him almost every day,” declared Jada Feagin, senior at Niagara Falls High School. “Maybe a little too much.”
Feagin said she doesn't support most of Trump's policies or how he feels about people in the United States.
“If you had a chance to talk to him yourself, what would you say?” asked Buckley.
“I wouldn’t want to say anything to him,” responded Feagin. “I wouldn’t want to be around him. I feel like he’s a very defensive person. Whenever someone brings facts to him, or basically what they feel about what he’s said, he gets very defensive and he doesn’t listen to what they say so I don’t feel like talking to him is important.”
Feagin was among eight students we recently met with inside their cafeteria to discuss school life. In the midst of our questions about social media and cyberbullying, students became most animated as we talked about this historic presidency. Senior Matthew Jackson also reacted to questions about Donald Trump.
“I think Trump should have never became President, clearly for the reason that he’s not qualified to be President, because he has no political background," explained Jackson. "He was a celebrity, and before he was doing that he said celebrities should stay out of politics. And he should follow his own advice."
“If you had a chance to speak to him, what would your message be?” questioned Buckley.
“Probably a lot of strong words,” answered Jackson.
As many public schools across the region continue to experience higher populations of immigrants and refugees, the President's tough stance on immigration is a concern for some of these Falls high school teens, like senior Danielle Lia, who told us she is Lebanese.
“I think it’s a very big problem. My ethnic background is Lebanese and it’s Middle Eastern, so like, it does go back to home with me and it’s very upsetting with the whole situation that’s happening,” said Lia.
“Personally, I didn't really like either candidate in the final vote," remarked Hunter O'Donoghue, senior at Niagara Falls High School. "I was a Bernie Sanders supporter. Now I just view it as, see what he does from here. Hopefully, he does what's best for our country in his four years that he's in here for.”
O'Donoghue is actually worried about the future of public education and Trump's choice of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary. Pointing to her wealthy status, he fears she may not relate to middle- and low-income families who rely on public schools.
“We’re not coming up in a household where we have a lot of money, where we don't have to worry about things. We grew up like, ok we got this, that, we have to work hard to get to where we want to go, we gotta have good grades because college, everything like that," O'Donoghue said. "We have to work our whole lives pretty much coming up to make something of ourselves. I don't like the idea of paying for something or being handed something, so I don't think she understands the fact that she didn't grow up the way we had to grow up. I feel like she doesn't understand that and that's why she thinks the way she does.”
But while the students are supportive of their public education they remain very critical of Common Core, saying it causes too much stress for students and teachers.
“I really think that they need to get rid of Common Core, 'cause that's been a big thing in New York State,” said Lia.
“We were kind of the test dummies. I watched my teacher struggle the whole year to try to teach us as much stuff because he had no idea what was going to be on the exam, what it was going to be like come test time,” Hunter noted.
“No one likes Common Core. No one knows what they’re doing," Feagin responded. "When we first got the Common Core test, they were like, we used to take our Regents and the Common Core, cause we're like a little ahead of them so they want to test out the waters.”
“Yeah, we were the guinea pigs,” O'Donoghue interjected.
“We were the guinea pigs. We look at our test and we don't know what this is. We're confused,” Feagin said.
“It handcuffs the teacher and then by handcuffing the teacher it just makes it hard for the student to actually work,” O'Donoghue concluded.
WBFO will continue our "Cafeteria Chats" with more students at Niagara Falls High School on Thursday morning.