Clarke goes to debate

Published 4:39 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A senior at Central High School had the opportunity to attend the Vice Presidential Debate in Farmville because of an essay he wrote.
Jonathan Clarke is one of only 17 students chosen as winners of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Essay Contest. Each of the winners attended Tuesday night’s debate along with two guests of their choosing.

The 17-year-old said, “I was very excited. I think it’s going to be an interesting evening.”

He said it will be a chance to be a part of something of historical importance.

According to a Farm Bureau press release, the contest was “the culmination of a Collegiate Farm-to-Table Dinner and Agriculture Education program held Sept. 15 at Longwood.”

Following the dinner, students were invited to submit an essay based on ideas they gathered from the panel discussion. There were about 250 in attendance, and over 100 submitted essays for the chance to win a ticket to the debate.

The moderator asked the students how they would solve the food shortage projected for 2050 because of population growth.

Clarke said, “To be completely honest with you I don’t know a whole lot about farming, but I took it from a perspective of education.”

He said he discussed coming up with an idea to get more crops and a greater food source, but then expanding that idea to the education system, “particularly at an early age, not just middle school and high school.”

Students learned that because the world population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and farmland is becoming unrecoverable, there is a need for innovation in the field of agriculture to bring about a healthy and abundant food supply for future generations, according to the release.

Clarke said the essay had to be only 500 words and “for a person that’s really lengthy and wordy, like me, that was very difficult.”

Nonetheless, Clarke pulled out an essay that impressed the judges and he represented his school Tuesday night as he watched home-state U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine debate Mike Pence.

“I think it’s going to be really interesting, especially that one of them is from Virginia,” Clarke said.

He said he’s interested to see how Kaine’s “perspective has shifted from serving the commonwealth to the nation.”

Clarke in an interview before Tuesday said he looked forward to hearing some of the questions the moderator comes up with and seeing how the candidates respond to them. He said he had hoped to see questions generated by college students as well. He looked forward to hearing about how students only a few years older than him view the political race.

Clarke was allotted two guest tickets along with his own. He said one of his tickets would be going to his teacher Mary Myers.

“I thought that would be a great experience to give back to my teacher who does a lot and I know she would enjoy it,” he said.

Clarke said his teacher has been involved with the students through various organizations, including Scholastic Bowl, SCA and MGA.

Clarke said, “I just have to say I’m really appreciative especially of our school for giving us the opportunity to go and I’m really excited and I think it’s going to be a really great year for Central.”