Elizabeth McCann, 17
Past and present: Elizabeth McCann says she found her voice at Monte del Sol Charter School, after she moved to Santa Fe in the eighth grade from Pojoaque.
She says, for the first three years of high school, she was not too involved in school or community activities. But this year she felt a change was in order, and she took a leadership role in the school’s Honor Council. This is a school program that allows students to determine punishment for their wayward colleagues. If kids are caught lying to a teacher or cheating on a test, for example, their fates are decided largely by McCann and a few other students (with faculty oversight, of course).
Before joining the Honor Council this year, McCann says, “I had a lot of friends who have gotten into trouble, and the punishment seemed so severe and it didn’t change them at all.”
McCann joined the Honor Council because she wanted fellow students to see a familiar face when they get in trouble. “I thought, well, having a student listen to other students might help,” she says.
Seth Biderman, a Monte del Sol teacher (and SFR contributor) who helped organize the Honor Council, says McCann has been very empathetic towards the students.
Recently, a student was caught plagiarizing on a test. Biderman says the Honor Council decided her punishment would be to talk with all her teachers, explaining what she did. The purpose was to teach the student about accountability and integrity.
“They’re very creative in their punishments,” Biderman says. “That’s not something I would have come up with.”
As for McCann herself, Biderman explains that she is unique among her peers.
“Her initiative has impressed me,” he says, “and she also has something that’s hard to find in anybody, of any age—she has great follow-through. Elizabeth is dependable as a rock.”
The Future: Currently, McCann is looking for a job that will help pay her way to Spain, where she hopes to study next year. “I’ve never even been out of New Mexico,” she says, noting that she is only halfway toward her $3,000 goal.
After graduating, McCann plans on staying close to home to attend the University of New Mexico or New Mexico State University.
“People complain about how boring it is here, but I don’t agree,” she says.
On the ’08 election: McCann is too young to vote, but she did her part for the Obama campaign, working the phones and knocking on doors in the final days of the election. She believes strongly in the Illinois senator’s message of hope: “When I get out of college, I don’t want to have $43,000 worth of debt, and I want to be able to get my own health care when my mom’s expires for me.”
She was motivated to volunteer by a desire to rid the world of voter complacency. “Since I couldn’t vote, I decided I could get others who could vote to vote,” she says. “There are so many registered voters who never show up to the polls.”
Changing the world: Though only 17, McCann sees herself helping the next generation. “I can be a positive leader for younger kids who aren’t finding their way,” she says.
Matthew Reichbach, 23
Past and present: Hurricane Katrina galvanized many Americans in different ways. For Reichbach, it sent him straight to his computer—and he has barely left since.
Reichbach is the writer behind the prodigious blog NMFBIHOP.com (New Mexico From the Local Perspective). He’s also a writing fellow with the New Mexico Independent and an occasional contributor to Daily Kos.
His fascination with politics really kicked into gear in ’06, with the congressional race between Republican Heather Wilson and Democrat Patricia Madrid. Reichbach had taken a few political science courses here and there (he attended both New Mexico Tech and a community college in Albuquerque), but he’s pretty much self-educated on politics as a result of voracious news consumption.
He’s the first to be surprised that in just a few years, he’s not just writing full time, but people are reading what he’s writing. He recently had 30,000 hits on his blog in one week.
Reichbach is motivated by a desire to make sure people hear about everything that happens. For him, if a political event goes uncovered, it’s like it never happened. That’s why he has put 10,000 miles on his car in just two months, attending as many campaign events as possible, sometimes posting 20 times a day (and hosting a live Tuesday podcast each week).
“There’s a big hunger out there for more information than you see in the one daily paper in Albuquerque or the daily paper in [Las] Cruces or Santa Fe. When a [newspaper] reporter only writes one story a day, they miss a lot of things. I think I fill a niche.”
And while he does approach his writing from a progressive/Democratic viewpoint, “there are some things you just can’t do partisan, like the numbers. I’m a big numbers nerd. You can make it partisan, but then you make yourself look like an idiot; the polls show what the polls show.”
Reichback realized how far he had come when he attended last summer’s Democratic National Convention in Denver. “I kept saying, ‘What am I doing here? How did I get it here?’ You look around and see [Rep.] Nancy Pelosi and [Sen.] Chuck Schumer and powerful politicians that are shaping this country, and then there’s me: some 23-year-old who started his own blog because he felt like he had something to say.”
The future: “I’m just going to keep blogging, do whatever I can, just keep going. I always tell people, ‘I had no plan for any of this to happen. It seems to have just kind of fallen into place.’ I don’t have a plan, I’m just going to keep writing.” And that writing, he says, will likely be online, which is where he (and, of course, many others) believes the future of journalism may lie. “In the future, there’s going to be a fundamental shift and I’m hoping to be on the front edge of that shift. I don’t want to be like the car companies in Detroit, where they’re still making SUVs and all people want is hybrids.”
On the ’08 election: “I just think it’s just a transformational election, in the same way that Ronald Reagan was in 1980. I think it’s just going to transform politics and move politics a little farther away from the conservative bent we’ve had for the last two decades.”
Changing the world: “I just want to inform people about what’s going on and let them see my point of view on it. Then they can come back and talk to me if they want. It’s about discourse; it’s about being more open with everything.” SFR