Shirley Sandelands is co-chair of Running and Winning, an interactive workshop for female juniors and seniors at high schools throughout the Tucson area. The program introduces the students to politics, including information on how to run for office and manage a campaign. The students also get to meet women politicians who serve the Tucson area. The next workshop is Sept. 6 at Mountain View High School in Marana. Participating students are selected by their principals. For more information on the project, visit www.lwvgt.org, or call 327-7652.
Who is involved with the workshop?
It's sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Tucson, the American Association of University Women (Tucson and Casas Adobes branches), the Pima County/Tucson Women's Commission and the UA School of Government and Public Policy. But the project was developed by the League of Women Voters Education Fund. The UA School of Government and Public Policy has been very involved. We asked their graduate women if they would facilitate the tables. We usually have six high school girls per table, and (elected officials) who go from table to table. The grad students stay at each table to facilitate the discussions.
How did you get involved?
I've been a member of the league for 11 years, and I moved here after I retired as a high school teacher in suburban Chicago. I know politics. I was really involved with the teachers' association in Illinois. I wanted to learn more about Arizona politics when I joined, but I also taught (Advanced Placement) history and government. It seemed like a good fit to me. On this project, I work with Nancy Woodling from the AAUW Tucson branch, Marilyn Smoler from the AAUW Casas Adobes branch and Jenny Miller from the UA.
What happens at each table during the workshop?
The girls have a list of possible questions, usually not on controversial issues, but questions to ask the women politicians: Why did you get involved? How did you decide to run? How did you campaign? How did it affect your family? The goal is to show that women can get involved in politics and campaign. Once every politician has been to every table, each table chooses a girl to run for the U.S. Senate, and they create a campaign flier and choose their issues. We usually give them a list to work from—climate change, death penalty and immigration. ... The girls at each table write a speech together for their candidate, and then after lunch, each candidate will give her speech, and then the group usually votes on who made the (most) convincing speech.
How many schools do you go to every year?
We go to one high school every year. Last year, we were at Rincon; the year before, Canyon del Oro. We started at Sunnyside. In March or April, we try to meet with a superintendent or principal and see if they want to have us. They provide the space, and we bring the materials and the campaign women, and we pay for lunch and a snack.
Which politicians have you had in the past?
Linda Arzoumanian, Shirley Scott, Linda Lopez, Carol West, Gabby Giffords when she was a state senator, and Terri Proud. ... We have representatives from all parties. (The league) doesn't endorse candidates, but we do endorse issues, and our issues are pretty progressive. We may have a candidate who may not agree with our issues, but they agree with exposing girls to let them know they can run for office.
How do we compare in terms of women in office?
Nationally, women are 17 percent. Pima County is better, but the Arizona Legislature isn't doing much better. It's also good to point out that we don't just invite women who are in office or who have won, but also those who have campaigned and lost, like Andrea Dalessandro and Mohur Sidhwa.
How do you know the project is working?
I know that some of the participants from the first one, at Sunnyside, have joined city commissions. ... We do evaluation sheets and ask if the project changed their opinion about people in politics, and most say yes. Many say that they stood up and gave a speech for the first time, and didn't know they could do that.