GAUTIER -- For about 90 minutes Thursday, the CSPAN campaign bus cranked out politically aware students by the dozens at the Gautier Middle School.
Most -- like eighth-graders Kerstin Tuck and Jenna Sutherland -- went in with only a casual appetite for politics, mostly informed by things they had heard their parents talk about.
But run them through a bus full of high-tech, high-definition video, computer and broadcast equipment, with the rapid-fire host La'Shawna Saint-Preux breaking down politics and Congress, and the kids emerge about 15 minutes later with a head full of ideas and dreams of landing a $1,000 prize in CSPAN's documentary contest.
"I didn't know much about CSPAN," said Sutherland, one of the dozens of "A" students who toured the bus. "I knew a little about politics, because my parents talk about it. But now I know some things, too."
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Most of the students seemed taken by the fact CSPAN is paid for by a 6-cent charge on their parents' monthly cable bill. They agreed it seemed like a bargain given all the programs on the cable networks and the historical information on the website.
"I hadn't watched it before, but I will now," Sutherland said. "I'm going to look at some things on their website."
On board the bus, Saint-Preux asked students what they'd like to hear candidates talk about. Shocker: It's mostly not what the candidates are talking about.
The world. Education. And yes, Obamacare.
"How about a longer school day?" Saint-Preux asked. The students answers with a loud, five-second nooooooooo.
Mayor Gordon Gollott got in the act. He says kids are pretty wise about what the city does.
"They ask about lights, about the mall," he said. But by the time Gollott got through talking about his job and how the city works, he was something of a rock star. Kids were lining up to get his autograph outside the bus.
Even Pete Sugutt, a retired history/government teacher from the Baltimore area who drives the CSPAN bus around the country as a hobby, had to admit, "That's something you don't see too often. Kids wanting the mayor's autograph."
The tour continues Friday with stops at Harrison Central High School and Biloxi High School.